Tag Archives: material histories

CFP: The Lives of Objects

The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) exists to encourage practice and
research in life-writing in all forms, from biography to autobiography,
diaries to blogs, letters to memoirs. It is directed by renowned
biographer Professor Hermione Lee, associate-directed by eminent colonial
scholar Professor Elleke Boehmer, administered by literary historian Dr
Rachel Hewitt, and is based at Wolfson College, Oxford. From 20-22
September 2013, OCLW will hold its first major triennial conference, on
the subject of ‘The Lives of Objects’.


Submit Abstract by 31 January 2013

The application of life-writing to objects lies at the heart of many
recently published biographies, memoirs and histories, including Neil
MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects (2010), Edmund De Waal’s
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (2010), Steven Connor’s
Paraphernalia: The Curious Lives of Magical Things (2011), Mark
Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History (2003) and Lorraine Daston’s Biographies
of Scientific Objects (2000). Biographies of objects raise important
methodological issues pertinent to life-writing, regarding narrative,
structure and chronology; the representation of change and improvement;
and the influence of objects in human lives, communities and material
history. The study of ‘object biographies’ continues to generate fruitful
areas of academic research, including Bill Brown’s work on ‘thing theory’
(2001); Chris Gosden and Yvonne Marshall’s 1999 study of ‘the cultural
biography of objects’ (in relation to archaeology); and explorations of
value and exchange of objects in cultural and material history, such as
the essays included in Arjun Appadurai’s edited volume The Social Life of
Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (1986).

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Material Histories: Antipodean Perspectives

Massey University’s MATTER research cluster and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa present a symposium that brings together historians, curators, artists, designers and postgraduate students to explore the history and meanings of our material culture. It will include international speakers, exhibitions and behind the scenes tours of Te Papa.

From the British Museum’s global History of the World in 100 objects to the recent gorgeous local publication Te Hao Nui The Great Catch: Object stories from Te Manawa Museum, it is clear that there is renewed interest and excitement in material culture. Antiques, vintage and retro, as well as museum collections and would be collectors are everywhere. What does this mean for the history we research, write, display and put online?

International speakers will put research conducted locally into an international perspective. As well, there will be exhibitions and behind the scenes tours of Te Papa. Please join us to hear fascinating accounts from scholars at the cutting edge, see what is being done in print, on display and online, and be part of moving this exciting research area forward!

Keynote Speaker: Professor Beverly Lemire, Professor & Henry Marshall Tory Chair, Department of History & Classics and Department of Human Ecology, Director of the Material Culture Institute, University of Alberta, Canada.

Other confirmed speakers include: Dr Louise Purbrick (Univ. of Brighton); Dr Graeme Were (Univ. of Queensland); artist Areta Wilkinson; Dr Bronwyn Dalley (independent scholar); Dr Kate Hunter (Victoria Univ. of Wellington); Kirstie Ross (Te Papa); Dr Kerry Taylor (Massey Univ.); Fiona McKergow (independent scholar), plus a postgraduate panel of current students engaged in material culture studies research.

Date: Thu 15 Nov – Fri 16 Nov
Location: Te Ara Hihiko, Massey University, Wellington campus and Te Papa Tongarewa, on the Wellington Waterfront.

A pdf of the full symposium programme can be found here.

Enquires to the event convenor, Dr Bronwyn Labrum: B.J.Labrum@massey.ac.nz