The In-Betweenness of Things:
Materializing Mediation and Movement between Worlds
A One-Day Symposium at The British Museum
22 March 2013
This one-day symposium is scheduled to coincide with the Sowei Mask: Spirit of Sierra Leone exhibition, on display at The British Museum between 14 February and 27 April 2013. The mask at the centre of the exhibition could be said to mediate between worlds. It materializes the interconnectivity between the worlds of the colonized and the colonizer in 19th-century West Africa. On the one hand it represents the radical ‘otherness’ of an African masquerade tradition, on the other hand it illustrates how those very traditions incorporated Western objects – such as the European top hat – and made them symbols of power. This hybrid object is neither purely African, nor purely European, but exists in a space between. Aside from its ritual context in which the mask mediates between the domain of the spirits and that of humankind, it speaks of the multi-directional mobility of people and things as well as the entanglement of culture and power in the late 19th century. Today, the mask mediates between the museum and its communities, including diasporic communities who live ‘between’ London and Sierra Leone.
We invite speakers from a wide variety of disciplines to participate in this symposium to explore the concept of ‘in-betweenness’ in material and visual culture. We encourage participants to take an ‘object-centred’ approach, each using a particular object as a starting point to explore how things mediate between worlds in diverse cultural, geographic and temporal contexts. We welcome papers that seek to expand our understanding of the nature of mediation, hybridity, ambiguity, mobility, interconnectivity, creolization and entanglement. How are such qualities expressed in material form? In what ways is the mediatory agency of such objects articulated? How do such objects challenge the reification of dichotomized worldviews (us/them, here/there, present/past, modern/primitive)?A selection of papers will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Material Culturedevoted to the theme of the symposium.Please email a title and 250-word abstract to Paul Basu firstname.lastname@example.org 31 January 2013 if you would like to propose a paper.