CFP Kalamazoo 2017: The Idea of Luxury and the Role of the Object

As Christopher Berry has shown in The Idea of Luxury, the concept of luxury is determined by countless factors: it is situated by socio-economic forces, enacted politically, and both justified and critiqued by philosophy and theology. Luxury is also a difficult scholarly concept to contend with, requiring close engagement with these aforementioned fields as well as distance from our own modern judgments and conceptualizations.

Our panel seeks to integrate physical objects within such epistemological studies and consider anew the vital role of Art History. We hope to use artworks to reevaluate some fundamental questions: what is luxury, how is it manifested in physical terms, and what are its functions for patrons, makers, and beholders? We also hope to bring to the fore new questions about the role of luxury objects in shaping scholarly questions and Art History as a discipline, dealing with the nature of the canon, the extant corpus of objects, and the role of collecting practices through time. Indeed, in today’s economic climate, it seems time to consider luxury’s history, our relationship to it, and what art historical lines of inquiry can bring to bear on cultural commentary.

We welcome papers in various stages of research, and across geographic, temporal, and material contexts. Potential topics include: the aesthetics of luxury; material treatises and the physical makeup of luxury; unexpected luxuries; church treasuries; notions of excess, and objects that warn against, or perhaps embody, luxuria and avaritia; commissioning, owning, and displaying luxuries; history and historiography of luxury; luxury and domesticity; luxury and gender; collecting luxuries.

To propose a paper, please send an abstract, C.V., and completed Congress Participant Information Form to Andrew Sears (asears@berkeley.edu) and Laura Tillery (tillery@sas.upenn.edu) no later than 15 September 2016.