Seminar: Material Culture and Its Discontents
German Studies Association Conference

September 29 – October 2, 2016 San Diego


Ilinca Iurascu (University of British Columbia) & Catriona MacLeod (University of Pennsylvania)

From ‘commodity fetishism’ to the uncanny vitality of objects; from Simmel’s “Eigengesetzlichkeit des Materials” to John Law’s “relational materiality”: the theoretical field of material culture is marked by a continuous process of redefinition and expansion. This seminar is dedicated to exploring new directions and trends in the study of materiality in German cultural and literary studies, particularly those that highlight the unruly nature of subject-object relations and seek to uncover gendered aspects of material practices. Some of our subjects will include (but will not be limited to): ephemera; salvaged and recycled materiality (relics, archives, domestic craft); fugitive materiality (from spectres to spirit photography); pollution matters (smog, dust, electronic waste); abject materialities (from bodily fluids to broken things); ‘extreme’ collecting and collectors (wet specimens; war trophies), consumerism and desire, kitsch. 
Simultaneously, we will focus on historiographic and meta-disciplinary questions: what notions of materiality are prioritized by certain epistemic and cultural models; do specific (literary) genres presuppose a particular relation to materiality; what are the effects of the long-standing association between women and matter, and, how are things themselves gendered; further, what tends to be excluded from current critical discussions on “material culture,” especially in German Studies? Thereby, we hope to initiate a broader dialogue leading to a group publication project. 

Participants will send 8-10 pp. papers one month before the seminar. A selection of critical works will be pre-circulated and will inform general discussions. The seminar sessions will consist of short introductions and paper presentations, with ample time being devoted to feedback from the group.


Proposals should be sent directly via the GSA website at by January 28. You must be a current GSA member to apply.

******************* The German Studies Call for Papers List Editor: Sean Franzel Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt Sponsored by the University of Missouri Info available at: