Part 1, 5-7.12. 2013. Early Modern Material Culture (Gotha)
Part 2, November 2014: Material Culture Studies, trans-epochal. ‘Things’ in changing contexts: assessment, devaluation, reinterpretation. Transitions between eras and socio-political crises through the lens of ‘things’ (Gießen)
The aim of this conference is to fundamentally examine the potential for epistemic gain from material culture research. What forms of insight result from the study of objects/things/artefacts as source materials? How are the field’s terminology and concepts distinguished? Do established historical phenomena develop new significance when viewed via ‘things’? According to Latour, objects are actors with their own scripts and contain messages about the people who used them as well as cultural practices and norms. Can ‘things’ be regarded as sources for understanding modes of thought and cultural habits that yield information that is not attainable via textual or iconic sources? Which kinds of information do objects immediately convey and how can we decode them? How does the haptic quality of things add to their meaning? Questions arise concerning the repeatability of historical perception. Methodologically of particular interest are the medial fractures that result when ‘things’ are not conveyed in their three-dimensional physicality but only described by texts and pictures.
The study of material culture is booming within Germany – most noticeably since the German Ministry of Research (BMBF) announced its new program in May 2012 – and beyond. The boom does not, however, correlate with a completely new perspective but rather is the result of interdisciplinary research that introduced object-based methodologies to cultural studies as early as the 1990s in the United States. Before then, engagement with the material remains of past eras belonged largely to the domains of Archaeology and Ethnology. Under the label of ‘Material Culture Studies,’ the examination of culture via ‘things’ has become an established and relevant discipline within Anglo-American cultural studies contexts. It is important that the political-policy dimensions of this area of research undergo critical analysis: Is the study of material culture simply fashionable or should it become an entirely new discipline within historical studies? Can material culture be usefully studied as a medium for knowledge in all eras?
Part 1 of the conference focuses on the early modern period in its interdisciplinary investigation of things. Of central concern is the epistemic value of the study of material culture, which will be evaluated via examples (which can also be contemporary). What does material culture studies achieve and what are its limits? We especially seek papers engaged with the theoretical implications of the study of material culture.
Papers may be given in German or English. The conference will be conducted in both languages.
Possible topics include:
Objects of science
Textiles and furniture
Production of food / nutrition
Art and art collection
Social differentiations of handling practices
Early modern theoretical discourses about objects
Proposals for papers (30 min) of max. 250-300 words are due by April 12, 2013:
The conference is a cooperation between the Research Centre for Culture and Social Studies Gotha of the University of Erfurt, and the International Graduate Centre for Study of Culture of the Justus-Liebig-University Gießen. Part 1 will take place at Schloss Friedenstein Gotha.
Prof. M. Mulsow / Research Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at the University of Erfurt, Gotha
Dr. A. Cremer / International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture of the JLU
The Research Centre for Cultural and Social Studies Gotha is a central institution of the University of Erfurt. Housed in Gotha Friedenstein Castle, it is in close contact with the local research library, one of the greatest early modern libraries in Germany. As a Research Centre for Early Modern Studies, it assumes the special task of organising conferences and lectures based on the library’s resources and serves as a platform for scholars, visiting researchers and research projects.
The International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC), Justus-Liebig University Gießen offers a structured, three-year cultural studies doctoral education program. With an excellent research-intensive environment, a target group-oriented doctoral program and an intensive advising, the Graduate Centre offers ideal conditions for dissertation-projects.
International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC)
Alter Steinbacher Weg 38
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