All Things Arabia: Arabian Identity and Material Culture

deadline for submissions: 
August 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Ileana Baird / Zayed University
contact email: 

Submissions are being sought for a collection of essays tentatively titled All Things Arabia: Arabian Identity and Material Culture. The goal of this collection is twofold. First, we would like to challenge existing scholarship by Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, or Franz Fanon and, instead of looking at the other spaces of the Near Orient as the “great complementary opposite” of the West, to suggest new, more complex, and unbiased ways of understanding the cultural identity of the Arabian Peninsula through the things that stand for this place. This focus on “things” will allow us to depoliticize the discourse and highlight, instead, the networks of relations—commercial, cultural, or emotional—that look at local identities as part of a global, nonhierarchical network of relations. Second, we would like to bring together original work by scholars involved in researching the material life of the Arabian Peninsula in order to increase the visibility of a culture that has made important contributions to the global cultural heritage.By using the innovative lenses of thing theory and material culture studies, we hope to bring together essays focused on the role of objects — from historical and ethnographic artifacts to spices, jewelry, perfumes, ornaments, weapons, food, and beverages — in creating an Arabian identity throughout the ages. Given its focus, this project is necessarily both interdisciplinary and cross-historical, involving the combined experience of scholars from diverse fields of study (anthropology, history, geography, museology, literature, arts) and covering diverse periods of study, from the pre-Islamic era to the present day. It also attempts to establish a necessary dialogue among the diverse cultures that form what we call today an Arabian identity, centered around the Arabian Peninsula.


Possible topics include (but are not limited to):


  • the global circulation of the Islamic art (gifts, jewelry, metalwork, etc.) through trade and exchange;

  • the production and spread of paper and textiles in and from the Arabian Peninsula;

  • the trade in medicinal substances;

  • coffee and its global networks;

  • the trade in spices and aromatics;

  • Arabian food culture;

  • narratives, myths, and stereotypes associated with Arabian Peninsula;

  • exotic things as subjects of scientific investigation;

  • Islamic artifacts and the culture of the museum;

  • things as fetishes and objects of exchange;

  • curious, magical and ritual objects;

  • the issue of “exoticism” and/or cultural difference;

  • representation of things in Arab visual culture;

  • objects in intimate spaces and the construction of domesticity.


Ideally, this collection will bring together contributions that shed light on the way the regional identity of the Arabian Peninsula was constructed by the travelers, traders, or readers who encountered it through its local objects or descriptions of such. Consequently, our call for papers encourages submissions from scholars involved in interdepartmental and cross-period research.


Please send abstracts of 300-500 words and a brief bio to Ileana Baird at, and Hulya Yagcioglu at by March 15, 2018. The deadline for manuscripts (cca 7,000 words) is August 15, 2018.