Call for Contributions: Edited Volume, Visible Lives in Material Things (proposals deadline Sept. 30)

Visible Lives in Material Things: Visual and Material Culture and Irish Cultural History

Chapter proposals are sought for a planned edited volume on visual and material culture and Irish cultural history.

The respective material and cultural turns of the twentieth century have brought a number of disciplines into closer dialogue with one another in their approaches to Irish cultural history. While there has been no consensus on questions of methodology or a shared common purpose, a number of fields have addressed themselves to material objects and visual imagery in their exploration of Irish cultural life outside the dominant themes of economics and politics that have pre-occupied much Irish historiography. The disciplines of archaeology, social anthropology, history, human geography, art and architectural history and literary studies have increasingly incorporated the material forms of artefacts and the pictorial depiction of social life into the broad corpus of cultural texts to be mined for historical evidence of Irish social life. However, the nomenclature of “visual culture” and “material culture” to describe the mutual interest in the intersection of physical objects and visual images, have obscured significant methodological and theoretical differences between disciplines that raise questions about the extent to which recent interest in Ireland’s visual and material culture enriches the understanding of social and cultural life. In the rush to rebrand art, design and architectural history as visual and material culture studies in the academy, the formal qualities of material objects, the built environment, artefacts and visual imagery, still dominate the field, and symbolic meaning and authorship remain elevated above questions of agency, utility and circulation. In literary and historical studies material objects and images are largely approached as texts to be “read” as representations of cultural life or “mined” for historical data. Interpreted against the backdrop of history, the ways in which visual and material culture become embedded in social life largely remain unexplored as an avenue to broader the horizon of Irish cultural history.

Differences between visual imagery and material objects as representations of Irish history, and Ireland’s visual and material culture as the “historical”, thus provide different routes into the relations between things, images and the deeper understanding of Irish cultural history. Essays proposals are sought that approach material objects and visual imagery as salient features of Irish cultural history and which prioritise visual and material culture as the historical. Discussions of visual and material culture as providing insights into how everyday Irish life was and is experienced, and how the making of objects and images either through craft based practices and/or technologies express cultural practices and behaviours are especially welcome. Essays that push beyond or incorporate issues of representation with questions of use, circulation, reception, exchange, collection, and visual and material culture as mediating social relations are also welcome. While submissions from all disciplines are encouraged, essays should focus on the ways in which visual and material culture enables and enriches understanding of the intersections of Ireland’s social and cultural history.

Possible topics include but are not limited to;

  • Souvenir collections (private and public)
  • Museum artefacts and collections
  • Household objects
  • Scrapbooks
  • Home movies/videos
  • Printed ephemera
  • Book collections
  • Photographs/Photo albums
  • Slide collections
  • Clothing
  • Built environment
  • Old and new technologies

Themes and approaches include;

  • Cultures of collection
  • Cultures of display
  • Clubs and societies
  • Gender and women’s lives
  • Exhibitions
  • Biographies of objects
  • Migration and exchange of objects and images
  • Consumption
  • Circulation of object and images
  • Oral histories
  • Sensory Experiences
  • Ethnographies of material and visual culture
  • Historiography and material and visual culture

Proposals of 500 words submitted as a word document together with a brief bio and contact information should be sent to Justin Carville via email at by Sept 30th 2014.