CFP: People & Things on the Move: Migration and Material Culture

CFP: People & Things on the Move: Migration and Material Culture

We seek papers for a workshop to be held May 13-15, 2015 dedicated to exploring the relationship between migration and material culture in the modern world (the 18th century to the present), sponsored by the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. We welcome paper proposals from both academics (including advanced graduate students) and practitioners—historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, public historians, librarians, archivists, and museum curators—who are working on the intersection between migration and material culture in any region of the world. We hope that selected papers will be published as a special issue or forum for theAmerican Historical Review.

Both migration and material culture have profoundly shaped societies and cultures across the globe in the modern era.  This workshop will define migration broadly, to include intra-state, international and intra-imperial migration, as well as "forced" and "voluntary” migrations.  Our use of material culture is also inclusive, embracing the objects that furnish domestic interiors, architecture, tools, books, toys, clothing, modes of transportation, musical instruments, dance, and even food. The precise relationships between migration and material culture have varied dramatically across time, space, and political and social context.  Our goal is to analyze and thereby be able to explain the diversity of these relationships and experiences. 

Possible questions that papers might address include: 

  • What objects have migrants carried with them, and what can these objects tell us about processes and experiences of migration?
  • How has migration been linked to cultural transfer in the realm of material culture?
  • How have gender and generation been implicated in this dynamic?
  • How has migration shaped the production as well as the consumption of particular objects?
  • How has migration and return migration been linked to the transformation of material culture in sending countries?
  • How has the circulation of material objects and consumer goods shaped imperial projects in the 19th and 20thcenturies?
  • How has material culture been linked to the imagination & consolidation of diasporic communities and minority cultures?
  • What role has material culture played in the politics of migration, including ideas about “assimilation” and pluralism?
  • What can material culture tell us about the emotional and social experiences of migration?
  • How is material culture linked to individual or collective memory of migration?
  • What is the role of material culture in forced migration or population transfers? What happens to the objects left behind in the aftermath of refugee movements?

These are only some of the potential topics that the workshop may address. 

The three-day workshop will be held at the University of Chicago and will include both open sessions and working-sessions limited to the participants.  We will also be visiting one or more museum/gallery/installation in the Chicago area.  We particularly encourage proposals that engage the public history/historical sites of the city.  

Please note that we will require participants to:

  • submit their full papers one month in advance of the conference
  • provide written comments on a set of related papers the week before the workshop
  • be present for the entire workshop
  • We ask that you both refrain from submitting proposals for work already published or committed elsewhere and that you agree to publish in the AHR forum should your paper be selected and the forum accepted by the journal 


Travel and lodging will be covered.


Interested participants should send a 500 word abstract, an article or chapter (ms. or published on a related topic) and C.V. toQuesto indirizzo email è protetto dagli spambots. È necessario abilitare JavaScript per vederlo. and Questo indirizzo email è protetto dagli spambots. È necessario abilitare JavaScript per vederlo. by June 15, 2014.

Leora Auslander is Professor of Modern European Social History at the University of Chicago, where she is also a member of the Center for Jewish Studies and the Center for the Study of Sexuality and Gender.  She works on the Atlantic world, Jewish and European history with a focus on material culture, identity-construction, and politics. She is the author of Taste and Power: Furnishing Modern France(California, 1996) and Cultural Revolutions: Everyday Life and Politics in Britain, North America and France (Berg, 2008/California, 2009).  She is currently working three books: Paradoxes of Citizenship, on home and nation-making in interwar Paris and Berlin, with a particular focus on Jews; another entitled Commemorating Death, Obscuring Life? The Conundrums of Memorialization; and, Race and Racism in the Atlantic World (with Tom Holt). 

Tara Zahra is Professor of East European History at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the transnational history of modern Europe; migration; nationalism; humanitarianism, and the history of the family. She is the author of Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948 (Cornell, 2008) and The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II (Harvard, 2011). She is currently working on a history of emigration from East Central Europe to the “West” from 1889 to the present, tentatively entitled The Unsettled East: Emigration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the “Free World."

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