22 MARCH 2013

We invite speakers from a wide variety of disciplines to participate in
this symposium to explore the concept of 'in-betweenness' in material and
visual culture. We encourage participants to take an 'object-centred'
approach, each using a particular object as a starting point to explore how
things mediate between worlds in diverse cultural, geographic and temporal
contexts. We welcome papers that seek to expand our understanding of the
nature of mediation, hybridity, ambiguity, mobility, interconnectivity,
creolization and entanglement. How are such qualities expressed in material
form? In what ways is the mediatory agency of such objects articulated? How
do such objects challenge the reification of dichotomized worldviews
(us/them, here/there, present/past, modern/primitive)?

This one-day symposium is scheduled to coincide with the Sowei Mask: Spirit
of Sierra Leone exhibition, on display at The British Museum between 14
February and 27 April 2013. The mask at the centre of the exhibition could
be said to mediate between worlds. It materializes the interconnectivity
between the worlds of the colonized and the colonizer in 19th-century West
Africa. On the one hand it represents the radical 'otherness' of an African
masquerade tradition, on the other hand it illustrates how those very
traditions incorporated Western objects - such as the European top hat -
and made them symbols of power. This hybrid object is neither purely
African, nor purely European, but exists in a space between. Aside from its
ritual context in which the mask mediates between the domain of the spirits
and that of humankind, it speaks of the multi-directional mobility of
people and things as well as the entanglement of culture and power in the
late 19th century. Today, the mask mediates between the museum and its
communities, including diasporic communities who live 'between' London and
Sierra Leone.

A selection of papers will be published in a special issue of the Journal
of Material Culture devoted to the theme of the symposium.
Please email a title and 250-word abstract to Paul Basu
<> if you would like to propose a paper.

The symposium is being supported by:
Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, British Museum
Asahi Shimbun Displays
Journal of Material Culture
Centre for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies, University
College London


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