Visible Lives in Material Things: Visual and Material Culture
and Irish Cultural History
Chapter proposals are sought for a planned edited volume on visual and material culture and Irish cultural history.
The respective material and cultural turns of the twentieth century have brought a number of disciplines into closer dialogue with one another in their approaches to Irish cultural history. While there has been no consensus on questions of methodology or a shared common purpose, a number of fields have addressed themselves to material objects and visual imagery in their exploration of Irish cultural life outside the dominant themes of economics and politics that have pre-occupied much Irish historiography. The disciplines of archaeology, social anthropology, history, human geography, art and architectural history and literary studies have increasingly incorporated the material forms of artefacts and the pictorial depiction of social life into the broad corpus of cultural texts to be mined for historical evidence of Irish social life. However, the nomenaclature of “visual culture” and “material culture” to describe the mutual interest in the intersection of physical objects and visual images, have obscured significant methodological and theoretical differences between disciplines that raise questions about the extent to which recent interest in Ireland’s visual and material culture enriches the understanding of social and cultural life. In the rush to rebrand art, design and architectural history as visual and material culture studies in the academy, the formal qualities of material objects, the built environment, artefacts and visual imagery, still dominate the field, and symbolic meaning and authorship remain elevated above questions of agency, utility and circulation. In literary and historical studies material objects and images are largely approached as texts to be “read” as representations of cultural life or “mined” for historical data. Interpreted against the backdrop of history, the ways in which visual and material culture become embedded in social life largely remain unexplored as an avenue to broader the horizon of Irish cultural history.
Differences between visual imagery and material objects as representations of Irish history, and Ireland’s visual and material culture as the “historical”, thus provide different routes into the relations between things, images and the deeper understanding of Irish cultural history. Essays proposals are sought that approach material objects and visual imagery as salient features of Irish cultural history and which prioritise visual and material culture as the historical. Discussions of visual and material culture as providing insights into how everyday Irish life was and is experienced, and how the making of objects and images either through craft based practices and/or technologies express cultural practices and behaviours are especially welcome. Essays that push beyond or incorporate issues of representation with questions of use, circulation, reception, exchange, collection, and visual and material culture as mediating social relations are also welcome. While submissions from all disciplines are encouraged, essays should focus on the ways in which visual and material culture enables and enriches understanding of the intersections of Ireland’s social and cultural history.
Possible topics include but are not limited to;
Souvenir collections (private and public)
Museum artefacts and collections
Old and new technologies
Themes and approaches include;
Cultures of collection
Cultures of display
Clubs and societies
Gender and womens lives
Biographies of objects
Migration and exchange of objects and images
Circulation of object and images
Ethnographies of material and visual culture
Historiography and material and visual culture
Proposals of 500 words submitted as a word document together with a brief bio and contact information should be sent to Justin Carville via email @; firstname.lastname@example.org by Sept 1 2014.
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