Keynote announcement: Yair Wallach (SOAS, London), Beyond the printing press: alternative means of production in the global history of print

Vaibhav Singh's picture
June 26, 2019
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Asian History / Studies, Middle East History / Studies, South Asian History / Studies, Southeast Asian History / Studies

Beyond the printing press: alternative means of production in the global history of print

An international conference at the Royal Asiatic Society, London | 26 June 2019
Keynote speaker: Dr Yair Wallach, SOAS University of London

Yair Wallach is Pears Lecturer in Israeli Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His research has explored the intersection between ideas and material culture in the everyday experience of modernity. His doctoral thesis looked at Arabic and Hebrew texts in the urban space of modern Jerusalem (1858–1948). Dr Wallach has also written extensively on social, political, and environmental issues in the contemporary Middle East.


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Typewriters, duplicators, copiers, and a myriad other means of production and reproduction of textual/visual matter have been a vital part of print cultures across the world. The ‘agents of change’ in the global history of printing and publishing, across the twentieth century in particular, have been other processes, other mechanisms, other devices than the printing press. This conference focuses on the role of such alternative or additional means of knowledge production and dissemination – tools like stencils, mimeographs, duplicators, photocopiers, the processes of strike-on and rub-down lettering, cyclostyle, xerography, to name just a few. Despite their marginal location in print history such means and processes of production have had significant influence in wide-ranging contexts of political activism, countercultures, resistance and student movements, and indeed in confronting and challenging censorship. But they have also been indispensable in mundane office use, and in the day-to-day personal consumption of, and access to, information. 

We invite papers that examine the global history of small-scale technologies as well as the situational or selective deployment of alternative modes of print production across the world. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, practical and theoretical aspects, business histories, design and manufacture, the publications and publics of such endeavours, as well as practice-based enquiries and archival questions related to the longevity or ephemerality of their productions. The conference is particularly interested in investigations of Asian and African contexts where such alternatives may have had other functions or entirely different implications. Papers addressing oral histories, narratives of personal engagement, case studies of contextual adaptation and use are welcome, as are those that explore connections between geographical, socioeconomic, and linguistic contexts of printing through other means.

We invite proposals for papers of 20-minute duration. Please send an abstract (300 words) and short bio (150 words) to

Deadline for abstract submission: 31 March 2019 
Notification of acceptance: 10 April 2019 
Date of conference: 26 June 2019 
Conference venue: Lecture Hall, Royal Asiatic Society 
Venue address: 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD 
Conference convener: Dr Vaibhav Singh, University of Reading 
Email enquiries:

Registration fees (£10 early-booking, £20 regular) apply to speakers and attendees of this conference. We are unable to cover costs involved in travel and accommodation, however, early career researchers presenting at the conference will be reimbursed for economy travel (within UK). Tea/coffee and refreshments will be provided during the conference.

Please register before 22 June 2019 as places are limited:

Authors of all selected proposals will be invited to publish extended versions of their papers in a peer-reviewed journal issue of Contextual Alternate. Submission guidelines for the journal can be found here: