The theme of the conference is Hybrids and Metamorphoses.

The human mind tends to construct fixed forms and identities delineating them through clear sets of opposite qualities: we distinguish human versus animal, alive versus dead, male versus female, positive versus negative. We construct objects, beings, deities and religions as clearly distinct from one another. In this conference, we want to focus on the presence of such clear cut borders in our sources as well as on the functionality and the limits of these distinctions in current attempts to describe the Old Norse worldview. We wish to explore phenomena that seem to rebel such clear distinctions: entities changing their forms, hybrids, objects and beings bearing the features of both sides of the opposition – or none of them.

For this reason the theme of hybridization and transformation is inherently linked with the theme of binary oppositions. However, half a century passed since the time of Eleazar Meletinsky, Claude Lévi-Strauss and other classics of structuralism, and a couple of decades since the poststructuralist reaction. Where are we now?

Are the concepts of opposing categories inherent in the source material and what meanings do they carry in the sources? Do they represent rather categories created by our modern minds and in how far are they useful for uncovering the Old Norse way of thinking? Does the occurrence of mixed, heterogenous and transforming entities contradict the existence of clearly defined borders or does it corroborate it? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with the concept of entities created by the process of mixing, hybridization and adaptation?