CfP: Materiality and Embodiment in Greater Asia

Call for Papers
South-South II: Materiality and Embodiment in Greater Asia and Africa
October 27-28, 2017
Columbia University, New York
The incorporation of non-humans as active participants in knowledge production has prepared the way for interrogations of the nature of “objects”, “bodies”, and their relationship to one another throughout history. Transregional studies of objects and bodies have often focused on narratives of circulation and migration. But how does an inclusion of an object or body’s embeddedness in certain geographies and temporal contexts enable new possibilities for research? Does a study of material culture, theorized through conceptions of objects and bodies, confound or confirm regional geographies? This conference seeks to give voice to histories of materiality and embodiment in the Global South, in particular in Africa and Greater Asia broadly defined.
This conference thus poses two primary questions. First, how can African and Asian concepts and archives be used to reframe discourses on materiality and embodiment in the Global South? Second, what new optics of research do historical and historiographical questions about materiality and embodiment within the geographies of Greater Asia and Africa enable? Between these framing questions, many more emerge: how does the study of material culture intersect with processes of both circulation and embeddedness? How do materials themselves structure political economies? What are the ways, if any, of recovering histories of materials without the histories of humans? What purposes do materials serve in therapeutics, and how do they shape wellbeing - whether biomedical, physiological, psychological, political, religious, or otherwise? Where does the line between human and material blur, and in what ways can materiality be understood as an extension of embodiment or personhood?
The conference aims to facilitate historical and theoretical discussions around these questions. Themes of interest include but are not limited to:
  • “Materiality” and “embodiment” as categories of research
  • Object and body histories: biographies, agencies, genealogies, and ontologies
  • Objects and bodies and the transmission of skills or experience
  • Humans as objects/materials and vice-versa
  • Objects in and as archives
  • Economic and legal histories of commoditization and object-regulation
  • Refuse and garbage
  • Rituals, politics, and economies of artifacts, comestibles, etc.
  • Medical, chemical, biological, botanical, and textual objects and bodies
This two-day conference will take place on October 27th and 28th at Columbia University in New York. We invite graduate students, recent graduates, non-tenure-track faculty across disciplines such as Anthropology, Art History, History, History of Science, Philosophy, African, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Studies, Religion, and others to submit abstracts (300 words or less) along with a CV by June 1, 2017 to We especially seek papers from colleagues in Greater Asia and Africa and hope to have limited travel bursaries and accommodation for them.
Click here for information about last year’s South-South conference, “Intellectual History across Middle East and South Asia, 1857-1948”.