CFP Special Issue of Humanities: Gender, Race and Material Culture

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Special Issue “Gender, Race, and, Material Culture”

A Special Issue of Humanities

Deadline for Manuscript Submission: 31 December 2020.


Special Issue Editor

Prof. Maureen Daly Goggin

Guest Editor

Department of English, Arizona State University, PO Box 871401, Tempe, Arizona, USA

Interests: history of rhetoric; feminism; visual rhetoric; and material culture



Prof. Maureen Daly Goggin

Guest Editor


Special Issue Information


Relationships between objects and gender are formed and take place in ways that are so accepted as “normal” as to become “invisible.” Thus we sometimes fail to appreciate the effects that particular notions of femininity and masculinity have on the conception, design, advertising, purchase, giving and uses of objects, as well as on their critical and popular reception.

--Pat Kirkham and Judy Attfield[1]

An allied tradition of socialist analysis . . . has habitually contrasted the cultures of production and consumption:  the former characterized as collective, male, creative and useful, the later individualistic, female, parasitic and pointless.

--Amanda Vickery[2]

Over the past two decades, researchers in rhetoric, literary studies, history, and cultural studies—fields that have traditionally focused almost exclusively on scripted or written texts—have turned increasingly to material culture to explore the significance of material artifacts and material strategies for ways of understanding history, culture, race, gender, sexuality, ableness, politics, economics, and literacy. Material culture encompasses a wide range of objects, from pottery shards to smart phones, that humans have a hand in making. Those who study material culture are interested in exploring how objects are designed, created, circulated, consumed, collected and/or repurposed. Objects, of course, are polysemic and multifunctional and can never be reduced to just one category, but each facet offers a starting point for understanding the role of everyday objects and their role in constituting and reflecting, as expressed by Kirkham and Attfield in the epigraph note, gender to which we must also add race. Indeed, since Thornstein Veblen, production and consumption have been gendered[3]: as Amanda Vickery above argues, men with production and women with consumption. However, recently this problematic binary has been dispelled even though it stubbornly remains. This Special Issue will focus on material objects and their role in constructing/reflecting gender and race.

Take, for instance, the artificial, social hierarchical division between art and craft. Beginning in the eighteenth century and solidified through the nineteenth, art became gendered as divisions between supposed high and low arts were drawn, a distinction between male and female practices was made, and a separation of art and craft was concreted. Men were allotted the top position of high art and women the lower as craft. Yet, the distinction in practice makes little sense. As the artist Kate Themel argues, “Art is not a separate ‘world’ from Craft. These two things are not entities themselves but rather they are specific aspects of all creative work.” [4]  The problematic division is now being challenged through an understanding that artists work along a continuum not of type but of quality and ability to produce good things regardless of the medium, whether in paint, sculpture, textile, wood, or any other medium.

Some questions to consider:

  • What is the relationship between art/craft and race and/or gender?
  • How are things raced and/or gendered?
  • In what aspects of the life cycle of an object does race and gender figure?
  • How do race and gender operate differently across the life cycle of an object, from design, to production, to commodification, to using, to collecting, to repurposing?
  • Why are objects raced and/or gendered?
  • Who wins, who loses by the gendering and racing of things and their processes?
  • What is the relationship of identity to everyday things?
  • How do objects make manifest life cycles from birth to death?

This Special Issue is not limited by these questions; they are meant merely to generate thinking about the issues of material things, gender, and race. We welcome proposals that tackle questions of gender, race, and material culture in both fiction and nonfiction spaces around the globe.

Abstracts of 150–200 words, along with 150–200-word bios, should be submitted by 1 June 2020. Completed articles of 5000–8000 words should be submitted by 31 December 2020.


Keywords: material culture; material artifacts; material strategies; social hierarchical division; art; race; gender


[1] Pat Kirkham and Judy Attfield, Introduction to The Gendered Object, ed. Pat Kirkham (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1996), 1.

[2]Amanda Vickery, “Women and the World of Goods: A Lancashire Consumer and Her Possessions, 1751-81.” Consumption and the World of Goods, ed. John Brewer and Roy Porter (Routledge, 1993, 274-301), 274.

[3] Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899. (Viking Press, 1967).

[4] Kate Themel, “ART & CRAFT Cannot Be Separated,” Ragged Cloth Café, Serving Art and Textiles (March 11, 2008). Accessed 6 September 2013. Accessed 6 September 2013.