Material things are no less rich as primary sources for historians than are written documents, but each kind—and there are many—requires interpretive skills appropriate to it. These skills overlap with those required in other disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, art history, and philosophy. Therefore, although the project is rooted in the discipline of history, the contributors come from various fields.

Although a geographically acentric viewpoint would be ideal, the conveners acknowledge the inevasibility of their North American perspective. Therefore the workshop approaches the topic as initially a North American puzzle to be defined and compared with puzzles regarding the historical use of material culture elsewhere in the world.

The workshop is arranged thematically under five headings: “Culture and Technology,” “The Symbolic,” “Cognition,” “Social Distinction,” and “Memory.” Each of these sections is further divided into three constituent subsections comprising two case studies, one North American, the other concerning somewhere else in the world. This approach allows shared concerns and themes to emerge across conventional boundaries.

The contributors are a mixture of senior and emerging scholars from many academic traditions and parts of globe. The discussion of their very varied work, united by a shared concern with the application of material culture to the making of history, will prompt unexpected responses and unanticipated insights. The focus of the workshop is on discussion, not the presentation of papers, and the contributors will have a further eleven months to prepare their chapters for the Handbook in the light of those exchanges, and subsequent contacts.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Session 1: “Culture and Technology”

“Design and Purpose”
Rebecca Onion (Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science)
John Robb (University of Cambridge)

“Stability Versus Instability of Things”
J. Ritchie Garrison (University of Delaware)

“Obsolete and Discarded Things”
Sara Schechner (Harvard University)
Ellen Gruber Garvey (New Jersey City University)

“Material and the Immaterial”
David Morgan (Duke University)
Olaya Sanfuentes (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

“Sacred and Profane”
Colleen McDannell (University of Utah)
Denise Ho (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

“Human Bodies”
Judy Kertész (North Carolina State University)
Henry Drewal (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Session 3: “Cognition

“Categorizing Things: Nature and Artifice”

Mónica Dominguez Torres (University of Delaware)
Steven Conn (Ohio State University)

“Co-Evolution of Things and People”
A.W. Eaton (University of Illinois at Chicago)

“Ascription of Agency to Things”
Amber Musser (Washington University in St. Louis)
Lambros Malafouris (University of Oxford)

The workshop is free. It will take place in the Lecture Hall at 38 West 86th Street, between Columbus Avenue & Central Park West, in New York City.

RSVP is required.

that our Lecture Hall can only accommodate a limited number of people, so please come early if you would like to have a seat in the main room. Registrants who arrive late may be seated in an overflow viewing area.

To live-stream this and other special academic events at the BGC, please visit BGCTV, our online live-streaming channel.