CFP: Material Temporalities (American Anthropological Association, San Jose, 2018)

Jeremy F. Walton Discussion

AAA 2018 CFP

Organizers: Jeremy F. Walton and Sasha Newell


Material Temporalities: Provenance, Passages, Projections



From Kula to Coca-Cola, anthropologists since Mauss have considered objects as the connective tissue of and mediums for social relations. In doing so, they have forged a long-standing, multifaceted relationship to forms of materiality that trouble the Enlightenment dichotomy between subject(s) and object(s), building a vocabulary for evaluating the potencies and agencies of material worlds that are rarely, if ever, simply “objective”— concepts such as totem, fetish, and mana have been and remain today (Mazzarella 2017) fecund sites for the production of “ethnographic” theory (da Col and Graeber 2011). Yet anthropologists have only rarely considered how human modes of historicity saturate and constitute materialized worlds, rendering them simultaneously subjective and objective in myriad ways. Our panel on “material temporalities” draws direct inspiration from Walter Benjamin’s (1969, 1986, 2002) stirring approach to materialities as the loci and repositories of bygone human worlds, their logics, and their contradictions. If objects can serve as portals to past worlds, they also have the capacity to project into the future, not only as investments in future value but as evidence of alternative futures that may never come to pass, as tokens of unrelinquished possibility, or as materialized intentions not yet manifested as actual practice. Design and art are future-oriented material practices that project conceptual imaginaries into objective form that shapes human behavior. In this spirit, we seek ethnographic studies of temporal-material practices, ranging from hoarding to minimalist design, from nostalgia to amnesia, from monumentalization to idol smashing. Exploring social practices of constructing, constraining, and bending time through interactions with materiality, we unravel the socio-temporal passages through which subjectivities are objectified and objects become animate subjects.  


Please send abstracts of 250 words, along with a copy of your CV and a brief bio, to and  by 30 March.