Přednáška Metaphors of Healing: Exploring Analogical Thinking in Mesopotamian Therapeutics

We are pleased to invite you to lecture by Locandina Gioele that will take place in Cletná 20, room C136, on March 14th at 10,50-12,30.


In the field of Mesopotamian therapeutics, the “belief vs. thinking” dichotomy is still present and based on the ethnocentric prejudice that sees Greek medicine as the basis for a revolution in medical thought at the root of modern biomedicine. This opposition reiterates a number of other dichotomies, such as “rational vs. irrational,” and, in relation to the sphere of therapeutics, “magic vs. medicine/empirical knowledge.” Cultural anthropologists have, however, shown that, in reference to the medical systems of traditional societies, we should not speak in terms of “beliefs,” but rather of specific conceptual systems or ways of reasoning endowed with an internal logic. The lecture focuses on the analysis of the principles of analogical thinking within Akkadian therapeutic literature, through two case studies: the therapies of the recovery of male sexual desire (nīš libbi) and those to treat biliary disorders and jaundice in the third tablet of the section Šumma amēlu suāla maruṣ (“If a man suffers from phlegm”), which deals with gastro-intestinal disorders, of the first-millennium Nineveh Medical Encyclopaedia. The lecture emphasizes the complex relationship between the metaphorical incantatory language, by which analogies are expressed, and the materia medica described in the prescriptions. Semantic, linguistic and graphic analogies contribute to a process of analogical recognition between pathology, physiological processes, and materia medica. Through a comparative analysis of Mesopotamian therapeutic sources, this study elucidates some strategies of analogical thinking understood as a fundamental aspect of the mindset and worldview of the learned scribes responsible for composing the major works of Mesopotamian therapeutics.

Gioele Zisa’s biography:

Gioele Zisa has studied Cultural Anthropology at the University of Palermo and Assyriology at Sapienza University of Rome. In 2018 he obtained a PhD in Assyriology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, with the edition and anthropological and gender analysis of the Mesopotamian therapies for the recovery of male sexual desire: The Loss of Male Sexual Desire in Ancient Mesopotamia. Nīš libbi Therapies (De Gruyter, 2021). In 2022, he obtained a PhD in Cultural Heritage (discipline: Cultural Anthropology) at the University of Palermo, with a thesis on Persian oral storytelling arts. He has conducted education and research period also in Germany (FU Berlin, JMU Würzburg), United Kingdom (British Museum), France (ArScAn-CNRS Paris), Italy (VIU Venice, Sapienza Rome), and Iran (University of Tehran). He was Adjunct Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Palermo (2021-23). He is currently Postdoc in Assyriology at University of Vienna within the ERC project “Repetition, Parallelism and Creativity: An Inquiry into the Construction of Meaning in Ancient Mesopotamian Literature and Erudition.” In 2023, he obtained the Italian National Scientific Habilitation as Associate Professor in Ancient Near Eastern History and Cultures. He coordinates together with the ancient Near Eastern archaeologist Silvana Di Paolo (CNR, Italy) the project “Biodiversity in the Ancient Near East” (BioANE). He is experienced in interdisciplinary work, holding expertise in collaborative and methodologically-diverse Near Eastern research, from Cultural Anthropology and History of Religions to Gender Studies and Environmental Humanities.
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