CFP – Thinking with Things, 1500-1940

Call For Papers
Thinking with Things, 1500-1940:
An interdisciplinary material culture workshop for graduate students
25th April 2014
Deadline for abstract submission: 3rd March 2014
Keynote speaker: Dr Spike Bucklow, Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge
Closing Remarks: Dr Katy Barrett, Royal Museums, Greenwich
Thinking with Things is a one-day workshop to be held on Friday 25th
April, 2014 at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and
Humanities (CRASSH), at the University of Cambridge. Research students
from any discipline within the arts, social sciences, and humanities are
invited to submit proposals for papers, and/or panels of three papers,
that consider how ‘things’ can put a new perspective on the past. This
workshop is affiliated with the ‘Things: Comparing Material Cultures’
seminar series at CRASSH

Over the past thirty years, the ‘material turn’ has reformed the way in
which many historians approach the past, but attention to the ‘stuff’ of
history has concerned archaeologists, art historians, anthropologists
and sociologists for some time. From shoes to anatomical specimens, from
people to paintings, from durable glass and porcelain to fragile fabrics
and ephemeral foodstuffs, a vast array of ‘things’ are now subject to
the researcher’s gaze, offering valuable windows into the experience of
historical actors and the objects that mediated past social and cultural
The recognition that material objects are worthy subjects of scholarship
is the premise of the successful CRASSH Graduate Seminar ‘Things’. Now
in its third year, ‘Things’ began life as a series whose primary object
was the study of material culture in the so-called consumerist ‘long
eighteenth century’, taking the format of regular sessions of two papers
on related themes and/or objects presented by scholars from different
disciplinary backgrounds. Today, the series incorporates a longer
chronological span, but retains its original focus on the material lives
of the past and continues to attract scholars of all stripes to speak on
a range of topics.
The aim of this workshop is to give graduate students (at both PhD and
Masters level) and early career scholars a chance to present their work
and to participate in discussion in the lively, welcoming and highly
interdisciplinary space that ‘Things’ has created. Following the model
of the ‘Things’ series, the conference will be structured around a
series of panels that focus on particular types of objects or particular
thematic questions (such as issues of methodology or themes like
We encourage applications for 20-minute papers (or panels of 3 such
papers) along the following themes (broadly construed) in relation to
the period 1500-1940:
•       Methodologies of material culture
•       Material culture and modernity
•       Print and advertising: books, newspapers, posters, magazines, packaging and ephemera
•       Material culture of religion: art, icons, buildings
•       Objects of desire: fashion, clothing and luxury
•       Eating and drink: festivals, cooking, eating paraphernalia, and food itself
•       Scientific and medical objects: tools, images, teaching materials
•       Industrial objects: mass production machines and the objects they make
•       War: memorials, diaries, uniforms
•       Gendered things
•       Cultures of collecting & travel
Abstracts of no more than 300 words, accompanied by a brief biographical
note of no more than 100 words stating degree status and any
institutional affiliation, should be sent to by 3rd March 2014. This conference is
being organised by Lesley Steinitz, Michelle Wallis and Mike Ashby
(University of Cambridge).
This workshop has been made possible due to funding from the University
of Cambridge History Faculty, and organisational assistance and
facilities from CRASSH. We are unable to cover travel or accommodation
costs for speakers, though we are happy to help book affordable
accommodation for those participants that require it. We would encourage
participants to request accommodation early, as college guest rooms are
in high demand.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Lesley Steinitz, Michelle Wallis and Mike Ashby
University of Cambridge