CFP: American Material and Visual Culture of the “Long” Nineteenth Century

David Jaffee's picture

What does it mean to consider visual materials as material culture or to think about material culture as visual?  What can these approaches tell us about objects, images, and their relationship in the nineteenth century?  The convergence of visual and material culture offers the opportunity to consider the possibilities of such a scholarly turn.  While visual culture studies have emphasized the act of seeing as embedded within disciplinary or “scopic” regimes, material culture studies have long analyzed artifacts to understand their expressive function in society.  However, this situation has been changing and we invite participants from a variety of fields such as History, Art History, Literary Studies, American Studies, Design History, Architecture, and other related disciplines to participate in a symposium on American Material and Visual Culture of the “Long” Nineteenth Century.  The symposium will be held at the Bard Graduate Center in New York on May 6, 2016, and we welcome 30-minute presentations that discuss the materiality of images and the visuality of objects while addressing their interrelationship.

 Scholars are paying attention to the materiality of paintings and other visual media while artifact studies increasingly include the visuality of objects as an integral element.  Recent studies have considered makers and users, images/objects over the course of their production, distribution, and consumption, techniques and scientific methods, commodity studies, and the global transit of things. Although scholars have tended to explore many of these questions for the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, the visual and material cultures of the “long” nineteenth century remain strikingly understudied.  But this era demands attention, precisely because it witnessed the emergence of new technologies for creating, using, and circulating images and objects; the expansion and transformation of markets; and the imperial expansion of the United States as well as its transformation through civil war.  

Presentations do not need to consider the entire “long” nineteenth century and can focus on a particular object or image as well as a group over time and across space—but we are interested in studies that pay attention to historical context along with image/object analysis.  We welcome proposals that address activity in the North American borderlands as well as the Caribbean, along with comparative approaches, and studies that incorporate a variety of social, cultural, economic, and ecological methods.  This symposium will be convened by David Jaffee (Bard Graduate Center), Joshua Brown (American Social History Project and History Department, CUNY Graduate Center), and Catherine E. Kelly (History, University of Oklahoma).  We have plans to publish the presentations as an edited collection. Some travel support will be available. Please send proposals (500 words) and a 2 page cv by November 2, 2015 to

Categories: CFP