Friday, July 22, 2011

CFP: Active Objects

by J J Cohen

This CFP looks great: two intriguing sessions for the next Kzoo.


Call for Papers:  Active Objects

Panels sponsored by the International Center of Medieval Art
47th International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 10-13 2012

Active Objects I: Optics and Transparency
Active Objects II: Agency and Phenomenology

Inspired by the recent exhibitions of reliquaries in Cleveland, Baltimore, and London, these sessions invite considerations of how object-centered approaches develop our understanding of reliquaries, vasa sacra, and other instruments of faith. If we conceive of those objects as active agents, and not merely as passive elements in devotional practice, how does that change our perception of their function and their aesthetic nature? How did the vivid nature of these objects -- their mass and texture, their form, their brilliance, their aroma -- shape the way people acted with them, or simply behaved in their presence? Also, is it possible to track the ways in which the agency of a specific object changed over time? Finally, should we, can we, and do we want to consider how the agentic power of medieval objects influences our own relations with them in the present day?

“Active Objects” is organized by the Material Collective, a group of medievalists pursuing collaborative discoveries, humane histories, and the interpretive possibilities of the material. We invite proposals that engage phenomenology, optical theories, relational aesthetics, Actor-Network Theory, Thing Theory, notions of affect, and other object-centered approaches; we seek papers that consider how objects matter in medieval Christian, Islamic, and Jewish traditions, as well as in the interactions of faiths.

Please send paper proposals (abstract of no more than 300 words, and a completed Participant Information Form<>) by September 15, 2011 to  Karen Overbey ( and Ben C. Tilghman (

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