Gender in Material Culture
Annual Gender and Medieval Studies conference
Bath Spa University
4th-6th January 2013
Prof. Catherine Karkov, University of Leeds
Dr Simon Yarrow, University of Birmingham
From saintly relics to grave goods, and from domestic furnishings to the built environment, medieval people inhabited a material world saturated with symbolism. Gender had a profound influence on production and consumption in this material culture. Birth charms and objects of Marian devotion were crafted most often with women in mind, whilst gender shaped the internal spaces of male and female religious houses. The material environment could evoke intense emotions from onlookers, whether fostering reverence in religious rituals, or inspiring awe during royal processions. How did gender influence encounters with these objects and the built environment? Seldom purely functional, these items could incorporate complex meanings, enabling acts of display at every level of society, in fashionable circles at European courts or amongst civic guilds sponsoring lavish pageants. Did gender influence aesthetic choices, and how did status shape the way that people engaged with their physical surroundings? In literary texts and in art, the depiction of clothing and objects can be used to negotiate symbolic space as well as class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity. Texts and images also circulated as material objects themselves, with patterns of transmission across the British Isles, the Anglo-Norman world, and between East and West. The exchange of such objects both accompanied and enacted cross-fertilisation in linguistic, political and cultural spheres.
The Conference will consider the gendered nature of social, religious and economic uses of ‘things’, exploring the way that objects and material culture were produced, consumed and displayed. Papers will address questions of gender from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives, embracing literature, history, art history, and archaeology.
Themes will include:
• adornment, clothing and self-fashioning
• the material culture of devotion
• objects and materialism
• the material culture of children, adolescents and life cycle
• emotion, intimacy and love-gifts
• entertainment and games
• memory and commemoration
• pleasure, pain, and bodily discipline
• production and consumption
• monastic material culture
• material culture in literary texts
Please e-mail proposals of approximately 300 words for 20 minute papers to the GMS Committee by 14 September 2012. Please also include your name, research area, institution and level of study in your abstract. The Kate Westoby Travel Fund provides limited financial support for postgraduates and independent researchers who wish to attend the meeting.
To find our more, visit the Gender and Material Culture Website.
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