CFP Kalamazoo 2017: ‘Material’ & ‘Collective’ Roundtables

Sponsored by the Material Collective for the 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 11-14, 2017

This pair of sessions seeks to interrogate the terms ‘material’ and ‘collective’ by weighing their limitations and possibilities, with a dual focus on medieval art practice and modern scholarly approaches.

Session I—Material (a Roundtable)

Rarity and abundance, malleability and resilience, durability and ephemerality: such polarities governed how medieval artists and audiences experienced material culture, and continue to influence how medievalists today interact with the visible and tangible traces of the past. This session investigates the limits and possibilities of materiality as a way of thinking with and about the Middle Ages.

How did limitations on materials (precious metals, pigments, textiles) affect art production? How did medieval makers creatively respond to various limits of material realities (substitution, simulation, tromp l’oeil)? How were materialist sensibilities restricted or tempered in various medieval contexts and how did art negotiate or overcome these constraints? In terms of our modern interpretation, speakers might consider challenges to studying medieval materials, or how materialist approaches intersect or interfere with other kinds of analyses, and especially, how materialist approaches may push the boundaries of traditional art history.

Session II—Collective (a Roundtable)

As either a noun or an adjective, the term ‘collective’ refers to the assemblage of disparate entities into a whole. Even when that whole is singular, it is rarely entirely uniform. Medieval owners could gather diverse objects into hoards, burials, church treasuries, and libraries. Modern assemblages—in museums, libraries, and through digital platforms—may disperse or draw together medieval objects. People can be collective, too, and individual minds and personalities might join together in a common enterprise—medieval or modern.

Using medieval models like the universitas and the artists’ guilds, this session interrogates the term collective in every sense. How can an investigation of the word help us to understand more about how we view medieval culture and also how we function as scholars and workers in 21st century Medieval Studies? What are the inherent advantages and difficulties of collectivity, collections, or collective action?

For both sessions, we seek short papers (8-10 minutes) and we welcome alternative presentation formats.

Please send an abstract of your proposed paper (300 words maximum) and completed Participant Information Form by September 15th to both Joy Partridge ( and Alexa Sand (

Be sure to indicate whether your proposal is for Session I: Material or Session II: Collective.