[Extended deadline- 25 June 2017] When Objects 'Write Back': Rethinking Material Culture in the Tricontinent

deadline for submissions: 
June 25, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Minu Susan Koshy, National Institute of Technology and Dr. Roshin George, St.Thomas College

                                             When Objects 'Write Back': Rethinking Material Culture in the  Tricontinent   

Material culture assumes significance of massive proportions in cultures across the globe by virtue of its ability to trace everyday life and its nuances through the signifying metaphor of objects. The historical trajectories of nations, cultures and communities function in tandem with that of the prevailing material culture(s) in as much as transformations in the latter sphere inevitably represent ruptures or shifts in the former. The stories that objects recount surpass the boundaries of time and space as they transcend both. They function as signifying metaphors, carrying multiple significations of lives lived through and with them. Material culture and object oriented ontologies have occupied significant space in the academia, contributing immensely to tracing alternate histories of communities and cultures.

Theoretical paradigms on material culture have explored the object and its relationship with the human subject as well as the social order in which it manifests itself at intersections of the spatial and temporal axes.  The history of the object is also the history of the social order which produces it. As such, ‘thinging’ the object also ‘things’ the social order which produced it in the first place – that is, foregrounds what had hitherto been relegated to the background. Theorists such as Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood elaborated upon and highlighted the potential of objects to foreground ‘culture’. Igor Kopytoff and Arjun Appadurai’s contribution to the field of material culture studies and object oriented ontologies also becomes significant from the vantage point of the object in as much as it possesses agency and a ‘life’ of its own. Theoretical paradigms on material culture ranging from the Marxist approach to the structural and semiotic approaches and the cultural approach among others have delineated material culture studies as an academic discourse carrying the potential to enable a tracing of alternate histories.

One of the major lacunae in material culture studies is the Eurocentrism which characterizes the theoretical models. ‘Thinging’ and  ‘commoditizing’ were analyzed in the context of Western countries and the models failed to take into account the scenario in other parts of the globe, especially in the erstwhile colonies in the tricontinent comprising Asia, Africa and Latin America – the three geopolitical entities characterized by a shared history of colonialism and a similar present as third-world countries. After the Tricontinental Conference of 1966 held at Havana, there was a heightened sense of fraternity between the three locales and the commonalities came to be highlighted. As nations with a shared history of having borne the burden of imperialism, Asia, Africa and Latin America have followed similar trajectories in their movement towards integration into a global and now, glocal economy. As such, the material culture in these erstwhile colonies reveals marked traits of a colonial past and neocolonial present, with the socio-political realities modifying and getting modified by the rapidly transforming ‘objects’ and ‘things’ utilized by post-colonial subjects.

The edited volume seeks to formulate an alternate view of material culture emanating from the tricontinent, altering and modifying existing theoretical paradigms to arrive at a better understanding of what ‘objects’ signify in a postcolonial and polycolonial context through readings of literary and visual texts. The potential of objects in the tricontinent to write back to the centre constituted by Eurocentric notions of material culture, thereby highlighting the possibility of a tricontinental theory of material culture would be explored. The work would also attempt to identify the (dis)connections between material culture in various countries of the tricontinent and those between the three continents through an analysis of literature, art and aesthetics.    The potential of the ‘object’ to define and redefine postcolonial subjectivities, along with its significance in the glocalized context to which the tricontinent has shifted would also come under scrutiny. Interdisciplinary projects involving comparative literary studies are particularly welcome. The themes include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Theorizing a postcolonial object culture
  • Tricontinental object-oriented ontologies
  • ‘Thinging’ the postcolonial
  • Modernity, nationalism and the ‘thing’
  • Folk cultures and materiality in the tricontinent
  • Materiality in everyday life
  • Gendering material culture
  • Urban material cultures in the tricontinent
  • Food cultures
  • The politics of decoration
  • The ‘garbs’ of postcoloniality
  • The culture of the ‘thing’ from an ecological perspective
  • The afterlife of ‘things’ in the post-imperial era
  • Glocalizing object cultures
  • Visual cultures and the ‘object’ of postcoloniality

Prospective contributors are requested to send abstracts of 300-350 words by 25 June 2017, accompanied by a bionote of 150-200 words. Authors will be notified of the acceptance of their abstracts after 30 June 2017. Full papers are expected by 30 August 2017. Both abstracts and papers must conform to the latest MLA style sheet guidelines and be sent as Word files to materialculture.ed@gmail.com. For further details, please contact the editors:

Dr. Minu Susan Koshy

Member of the Faculty

National Institute of Technology



Mob No: 9207974864/7702463931

Email id: minususankoshy@gmail.com


Dr.Roshin George

Associate Professor

St.Thomas College, Kozhencherry

Affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi University


Mob No: 9048194864

Email id: rgpulikoottil@gmail.com