CFP: Gender, Material Culture, and Cultural Diplomacy

Conference Call for Papers: “Gender, Material Culture, and Cultural Diplomacy”
October 7-9, 2010
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

The interdisciplinary conference offers a forum to analyze, document, and exhibit intersecting imageries, functions, and representations of material culture and its connection to cultural diplomacy in Africa. It interrogates the production, circulation, consumption, and appropriation of material objects and artefacts, such as beads, pottery, and cloth, and their multiple and gendered meanings in changing social, economic and political contexts. Cloth, for instance, from cotton production, ethical consumption and fair trade exigencies, fashion, and cultural diplomacy bears multiple resonances and symbolic meanings in identity politics, power and social relations, trade, and economic exchanges. As a fetishized and iconic symbol of identity, a medium of cultural diplomacy, a commodity in the global economy, a symbolic object of exchange, memory and ritual, and a museum artefact, cloth conveys symbolic, mercantile meanings and social functions, which are both stable and remarkably fluid in different, often conflicting, socio- cultural, political, and economic spheres.

This conference invites a critical and reflexive engagement with material culture and cultural diplomacy—the symbolic, functional, instrumental, and transactional use of material objects as symbols of protest, resistance, negotiation, identity, memory, power, and agency. It will address a series of interrelated questions such as: What are the roles of various actors— artisans, feminists, activists, artists, scholars, producers, and traders—in constructing, deconstructing, appropriating, embodying, and visualizing material culture? To what extent do the production and circulation of material objects signify, reify, or transform social relations, identities, labour relations, and social hierarchies? What tensions and convergences do such material objects mobilize as a medium of cultural diplomacy, peace building, political protest and feminist praxis, economic production, consumption, and trade?  We invite papers and proposals with a theoretical focus on material culture embodied in cloth, pottery, or beads in Africa. Comparative analytics and performative methodologies are welcomed. Artists, artisans and activists are strongly encouraged to participate.

Note that the conference will include a curated event and exhibition titled “Embodiment and Visualization of Material Culture Across Time and Space.”

Abstract Due: before June 30, 2010.
Notification of Acceptance: July 15, 2010.
Deadline for full paper submission: September 15, 2010.

Please submit a 300 word abstract and short bio to:  Selected papers will be published.

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