Very Bad Things: Material Culture and Disobedience
Call for Proposals—2015 Emerging Scholars Symposium
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Saturday, April 11, 2015
The Center for Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware invites submissions for papers to be given at the Thirteenth Annual Material Culture Symposium for Emerging Scholars.
What happens when a thing goes bad? What is an unruly object and how does it get that way? Can an object get out of control? Can it be disobedient? Some things go bad; are some things born bad? How do things express our own dissatisfaction and deviance?
We seek papers that explore the recalcitrance of things, papers that interrogate the way objects can reflect human frustration or discontent, and papers that investigate the moments when objects resist our intentions or confound our expectations. At these vital junctures, things expand beyond the limits of the human imagination, shaking up our sense of the world and our place in it. This conference will consider how objects unsettle the presumed docile or one-way dynamic between human actors and material things. We welcome presentations that explore material culture in relation to social and political protest, bad design, technological failures, artifacts that surprise, magical objects, hurtful places, the naughty, the broken, the lost, the painful, and the perverse. We encourage papers that reflect upon and promote an interdisciplinary discussion on the state of material culture studies today.
This conference is not bound by any temporal or geographical limits. Disciplines represented at past symposia include American studies, anthropology, archaeology, consumer studies, English, gender studies, history, museum studies, and the histories of art, architecture, design, and technology. We welcome proposals from graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and those beginning their teaching or professional careers.
Submissions: Proposals should be no more than 300 words and include the focus of your object-based research and the significance of your project. Relevant images are welcome.
Programs and paper abstracts from past symposia are posted here:
Send your proposal, with a current c.v. of no more than two pages, to
Deadline: Proposals must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, December 15, 2014. Speakers will be notified of the committee’s decision in January 2015. Confirmed speakers will be asked to provide digital images for use in publicity and are required to submit their final papers by March 11, 2015. Travel grants will be available.
2015 Emerging Scholars Co-Chairs
Michelle Everidge Anderson (History of American Civilization) and
Emily Clare Casey (Art History)
University of Delaware