CFP: Materiology of Emotions



May 4-6, 2012 (PRINCETON, NJ)


In the first issue of the journal Veshch-Objet-Gegenstand, which appeared
90 years ago in Berlin, the avant-gardist El Lissitsky placed the object
at the center of the artistic and social concerns of the day: “We have
called our review Object because for us art means the creation of new
‘objects.’ … Every organized work—be it a house, a poem or a picture—is an
object with a purpose; it is not meant to lead people away from life but
to help them to organize it. ... Abandon declarations and refutations as
soon as possible, make objects!”

Ultimately, only three issues of Veshch-Objet-Gegenstand would be
published, but the journal’s project to cultivate object as a primary tool
of social organization clearly touched upon broader concerns of its time.
At the end of the 1920s, Sergei Tret’iakov, a leading theorist of Russian
production art, similarly insisted on abandoning the traditional
fascination with individual trials and tribulations and to concentrate
instead on the biography of the object that proceeds “through the system
of people.” Only such a biography, Tret’iakov maintained, can teach us
about “the social significance of an emotion by considering its effect on
the object being made.”

Taking the Russian avant-garde’s concern with the material life of
emotions as our starting point, the conference organizers seek to assemble
an international, interdisciplinary group of scholars working at the
intersection between studies of affect and studies of material culture. In
the last decade, these two crucial strands of social inquiry have shifted
the focus of analytic attention away from the individual or collective
subject towards emotional states and material substances. These interests
in the affective and the tangible as such have helped to foreground
processes, conditions, and phenomena that are relatively autonomous from
the individuals or social groups that originally produced them. Thus
interrogating traditional notions of subjective agency, various scholars
have drawn our attention to “a conative nature” of things (Jane Bennet),
to “affective intensities” (Brian Massumi), or to textural perception (Eve
Kosofsky Sedgwick) – to name just a few of these interventions – in order
to pose questions that fall outside of dominant frameworks for
understanding the epistemology of power.

Despite their growing importance, however, these diverse methods and
concepts for mapping the emotive biographies of things have not yet been
in a direct dialogue with one another. By focusing on the material
dimensions of affect and, conversely, the emotional components of object
formation, this conference aims to bridge this gap.

We invite submissions from scholars in a range of disciplines including
history, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, religion, politics, law,
psychology, history of medicine, science studies, art, film, media and
literary criticism, who are interested in exploring types of affective
responses, protocols of emotional attachment, and regimes of perception
that are encoded into and sustained by material substances. We welcome
theoretically rigorous proposals that draw attention to new configurations
of object relations as well as submissions that examine historically and
culturally specific forms of affective networks built around instances of
inorganic life across the world.

Please send your abstract (300 words) and a short CV to Serguei Oushakine,
the Chair of the Program Committee ( by February 1,

Those selected to give presentations at the conference will be contacted
at the end of February 2012. Final papers will be due no later than April
15, and they will be posted on the conference's website. We may be able to
offer a limited number of travel subsidies for graduate students and
presenters outside the USA.


Serguei Oushakine (Slavic Languages and Literatures; Anthropology,
Princeton U) Anna Katsnelson (Slavic Languages & Literatures, Princeton U)
David Leheny (East Asian Studies, Princeton U) Anson Rabinbach (Department
of History, Princeton U) Gayle Salamon (Department of English, Princeton


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