Call for Papers: Hidden histories of things: genealogies of the non-human

RHN 93/2014 | Call

Organisers: Sandip Hazareesingh (The Open University), Sarah Wilkes (University College London), Mat Paskins (The Open University)

26 January 2015, Institute of Making, University College London

Deadline: 6 October 2014

Hidden histories of things:
genealogies of the non-human

UCL’s Institute of Making is a creative space for those interested in materials and the made world, providing a location for investigation, research and play with an enormous variety of materials.  The Open University’s Commodity Histories project  focuses on the histories of a wide range of commodities that have become an indispensable aspect of people’s daily lives throughout the world, providing a forum for new research in the field.

They have come together to propose an interdisciplinary workshop on the hidden histories of the non-human, understood in its widest sense to include materials, objects, animals, plants and natural phenomena.

Overwhelmingly, research on the non-human, whether stressing collaborative relationships between things and humans or conversely the intractability and resistance of certain properties of the non-human to human will and control, tends to focus on the contemporary world. This one-day workshop takes a step back and aims to explore how the histories of materials and non-human phenomena might inform our understanding of their present workings and future potentialities. It views history as a creative process, capable of suggesting new possibilities by revealing hidden stories and episodes from the past. We invite papers that range across the entire spectrum of the non-human and that problematise the present by asking new questions of the connected past. Papers may, for instance, explore:

  • biographies of materials, plants, or commodities, outlining their various connectivities and agencies
  • the complex journeys of particular artefacts from past to present
  • how natural phenomena such as weather and climate have been understood in different  historical periods
  • animal-human relationships in historical context
  • the environmental and cultural consequences of the production of particular materials or minerals over time

Papers that deal with materials and natural phenomena in ‘unfamiliar’ spatial settings, e.g. locations in Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Caribbean, and Latin America, are particularly welcome as are abstracts from early career researchers and PhD students.

Papers will be circulated in advance of the workshop. Registration requests and abstracts of 300 words should be sent to by Monday 6th October 2014.