How can a word, an object or a person replace others and play the same role that they do in a sentence, in a given space or in a social relationship? Language, beliefs, legal and political practices provide multiple examples of situations and sometimes even of substitution strategies, involving either a word or a name, an image, a sacred object, an official or imagined role or position in society, the fate of persons facing death, the identity of people.
By crossing the artificially distinguished boundaries of scholarly traditions, while keeping a definite historical perspective, we intend to inquire about the forms and implications of substitution in European society and culture.
In a substitution situation, where the qualities of objects which shape their originality are (knowingly or not) missing or replaced, it is also the ensemble of the hierarchical institutionalization (ordo) and of staging strategies that creates the presence essential to a convincing substitution. The effectiveness of the substitution depends largely on perception. This aspect partially challenges the normative role of words, objects, people, etc., but also raises questions about their performative character. Furthermore we should consider the different notions involved – presence, materiality, ordo, staging – from an anthropological perspective.
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