Jahrestagung des ZfL/Annual Conference of ZfL
08 Nov 2012 – 10 Nov 2012 · 4.00 pm

Culture Meets Surgery. Images, Models, and Interpretations of the Human Skull

Venue: ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum 308
Contact: Uta Kornmeier
Research project(s): Skull Base Knowledge


(Last update: 09.11.2012)

Thursday, 08.11.2012

Ernst-Johannes Haberl (Charité Berlin)/Sigrid Weigel (ZfL): Introduction

Martin Kemp (Oxford): Feeling Bullish? Reading and representing faces in the visual arts from the Renaissance to now

Friday, 09.11.2012

Matt Jones (San Francisco): The quick character read. Designing heads for animated films

Hans-Florian Zeilhofer (Basel): The art of planning and performing cranio-maxillofacial surgery

Uta Kornmeier (ZfL):  Michelangelo’s scalpel. Proportion studies in classical art and contemporary surgical literature

Stefan Zachow (Berlin): Three-dimensional morphometry. Building an objective for surgical reconstruction of cranial deformities

Attention! Change in schedule:
Nichola Rumsey (Bristol):  Perceptions of facial differences. What motivates people to seek cosmetic surgery?

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson (Atlanta): Extraordinary Faces

Simon Strick (ZfL): Children’s cranial deformation. A 19th-century genealogy

James T. Goodrich (New York): Manipulating cranial bones. A cultural and surgical survey

Saturday, 10.11.2012

Working Breakfast: Frame-based cranial surgery (New surgical techniques and instruments)
Presenter: Ernst-Johannes Haberl (Berlin)
Please register for this event separately with

Jeanette Kohl (Riverside): Busts and Bones. Sculpted Heads in the Renaissance

Sigrid Weigel (ZfL): Carl Gustav Carus and the symbolic interpretation of the human shape

Richard Neave (Manchester):  Uncertainties of soft tissue prediction in facial reconstruction

Thomas Schnalke, Andreas Winkelmann (Berlin): Skull research. Dealing with »human remains« in view of recent restitution demands

Panel discussion: Collaborating with the humanities: A challenge for plastic surgery?
Chair: Michael Hagner (Zurich)
Ernst-Johannes Haberl (Berlin)
Mark R. Proctor (Boston)
Concezio di Rocco (Rome)

Although surgical techniques of cranial reconstruction have advanced in recent years, altering a person’s head shape by operating on cranial bones is still a serious intervention into the body, especially for children. Yet, what constitutes the physical outcome of the intervention – i.e. the ›normal‹ head shape – and why it is of significance to the individual patient is rarely discussed in the medical literature, making the procedure difficult to plan, perform, evaluate, and teach. Thus, surgeons must rely on their subjective judgement when it comes to ›correcting‹ cranial deformities. What constitutes this judgement when medical textbooks fail at this point?
There seems to be an implicit cultural knowledge which guides surgeons and patients’ families when judging a head as ›normal‹ or ›deformed‹. This knowledge may be informed as much by personal or professional experience as by popular beliefs and representations in the media. Drawing to light what is entailed in such judgements seems an essential basis for making the decision to operate.
The aim of the conference is to establish an interdisciplinary dialogue in order to examine the cultural and epistemological premises of shaping the human head and to discuss current practices of plastic surgery in view of their history.

Event for ZfL semester theme: An/Sichten Winter 2012/2013

Media Response

15 Nov 2012
Solche schönen Schädel gibt es nicht einmal in der Kunst

Die Kulturwissenschaftler wenden sich dem Körper zu. Jetzt trafen sie sich in Berlin zu einer Tagung mit plastischen Chirurgen. Article by Volker Breidecker, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 15 Nov 2012

12 Nov 2012
Treffen der Kopfarbeiter

Chirurgen, GeisteswissenschaftlerInnen und Kulturschaffende widmen sich auf einer Tagung dem Thema ‘Schädel’. Article by Elise Graton, in: tageszeitung, 12 Nov 2012

10 Nov 2012
Mehr als nur Kopfgeburten: Kultur und Chirurgie kommen zusammen

Eine Tagung des Zentrums für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin befasst sich mit Schädelformen. Interview with Uta Kornmeier, in: Deutschlandfunk, program Kultur heute, 10 Nov 2012, 17:30


Birgit Griesecke, Ernst-Johannes Haberl, Uta Kornmeier, Simon Strick, Sigrid Weigel

Schädel Basis Wissen I
Kultur und Geschichte der chirurgischen Korrektur der Schädelform

Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2017, 288 pages
ISBN 978-3-86599-361-8