Tag Archives: the social life of things

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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