Call for Proposals – 2016 Emerging Scholars Symposium

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, MMA-NYC, 1851

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, MMA-NYC, 1851

Possessed: The Material Culture of Ownership

Call for Proposals – 2016 Emerging Scholars Symposium

Friday April 22 – Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Center for Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware invites submissions for papers to be given at the 14th Annual Material Culture Symposium for Emerging Scholars held in Newark, Delaware on Friday April 22, 2016 and Saturday April 23, 2016.

We seek papers that investigate the possessability of objects and ideas, that explore the nature of ownership, and that question the relationship between humans and the things they call their own. In response to recent global data breaches, information leaks, and copyright infringements, people from different places and backgrounds have asserted their right to own the material and the immaterial in politically significant ways. At stake is the enduring question–who owns what and how is that ownership exercised? Can immaterial goods like data and designs ever be possessed? What structures interfere with or uphold the right to own something? What happens when a thing gets taken away?

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The meaning of ownership of material and immaterial things
  • Things that resist or desire ownership​
  • Exchanged, circulated, and transitional objects
  • Pirated, stolen, and leaked things
  • Confiscated and repurposed things
  • Artistic ownership, forgeries, and copies
  • The weight that rights of ownership bear upon an object
  • Hierarchies between owner(s) and object
  • How rituals and traditions shape the ownership of things
  • Heritage, legacy, and ownership
  • The relationship between property and propriety
  • How evolving technologies challenge or support notions of ownership

Finally, we encourage papers that reflect upon and promote an interdisciplinary discussion on the current state of material culture studies. This symposium is not bound by any temporal or geographical limits. Disciplines represented at past symposia have included 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 250 words and should include the focus of your object-based research and the significance of your project. Relevant images are welcome. Final symposium papers should be 20 minutes in length. Please send your proposal, with a C.V. of no more than two pages, to

Deadline: Proposals must be received by email by Tuesday, December 15, 2015. Successful candidates will be notified of the committee’s decision in early February 2016. Confirmed speakers will be asked to provide digital images for use in publicity and are required to submit their final papers by Friday, April 1. There will be a limited number of grants available to subsidize travel fees.

2016 Emerging Scholars Co-Chairs:

Jessica Conrad (English)
Rosalie Hooper (Winterthur Program in American Material Culture)
Kaila Schedeen (Art History)

University of Delaware