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CFP: Everyday Political Objects: from the Middle Ages to the Contemporary World

Submission deadline: March 30, 2018

Conference date(s):
November 14, 2018 - November 16, 2018

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Conference Venue:

Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion (IRHiS), Université de Lille SHS / CNRS
Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France

Topic areas


Call for Papers

Everyday Political Objects

from the Middle Ages to the Contemporary World

An international colloquium

at the Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion (IRHiS)

CNRS / University of Lille

14-16 November 2018

Christopher Fletcher

Gil Bartholeyns, Laurent Brassart, Manuel Charpy, Elodie Lecuppre-Desjardin

The study of material culture as an object of historical and anthropological investigation has opened up multiple new research possibilities in recent years. It is in this context that the CNRS / University of Lille research group IRHiS (Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion) is organising an international colloquium to explore one relatively neglected aspect of this field of research: the study of everyday objects as participants in ‘political’ processes in a broad sense. This colloquium aims to provide an area of active debate crossing the conventional divisions between periods and between different regions, with special attention paid to groups beyond the élite.

Over the past twenty years the concept of ‘political culture’ has transformed the field of political history. The study of the implicit and explicit political ideas of political actors has made it possible to offer sophisticated reinterpretations of the structures underlying their actions, and to propose fundamentally new explanations of political success and failure. Relatively recently, historians have enlarged this field of study to  consider political culture not only from the point of view of those who held power but also of those they governed. Popular political culture, or what is sometimes referred to as ‘ordinary’, or ‘vernacular’ politics, is currently attracting the attention not only of historians but also of political scientists seeking to understand political phenomena outside formal political institutions. It is in this context that IRHiS and the University of Lille are financing a series of events which explore new approaches to ‘everyday’ political culture. By ‘everyday’, we mean recurrent, familiar phenomena, which are not always explicitly discussed or theorised by contemporaries. This includes practices which are not necessarily considered to be ‘political’ by the actors, even though they make it possible to resist, or to constrain other people, that is to say that they establish power relations.

A one-day conference, Everyday Political Practices, held in September 2017, launched a series of three events. The second is devoted to everyday objects which play a political role in this broad sense. Seeking to learn from recent advances in the history of material culture and in the development of anthropological approaches to the complete ‘biography’ of an object or which apply actor/network theory, we wish to move beyond purely symbolic analyses to consider:

- objects which make it possible to resist power or authority

- objects of constraint which force submission or obedience

- mimetic uses, subversive or otherwise, of objects, for example, related to dominant groups

- ‘bricolage’, ab-use (transgressive use) or transformation of objects

- presents, bought objects, stolen objects, second-hand objects

- ordinary objects which become controversial objects, which become political or which cease to be so

Each paper will consider an object, a category of objects or a system of objects. Ideally, each paper will consider the ‘chaîne operatoire’ – the ‘operational sequence’ or ‘biography’ of an object, from its creation to its final destruction. Accepted papers will not be limited to the symbolic aspect of objects, but will also consider their other functions. They will consider objects which can be manipulated and carried by a single person. All historical periods are eligible. Papers can be presented in English or in French.

Proposals of around half a page should be submitted by 30 March 2018 to . Successful candidates will be informed before the 31 May 2018. Papers will be presented between the 14 and 16 November at IRHiS, University of Lille.

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