Edited Collection: Barbie and Material Culture
Edited Collection: Barbie and Material Culture
For over sixty years Barbara Millicent Roberts, better known as Barbie, has been a part of our cultural landscape. Originally emblematic of an idealized white American college graduate, Barbie has since become a site onto which we project our collective desires, sensibilities, and cultural anxieties. The plastic doll itself—generally referred to as “she” rather than “it”—is the plaything of children and adults alike. Barbie has served as muse or nemesis to generations of artists and designers, as diverse as Andy Warhol, Olivier Rousteing, Jonathan Adler, Sheila Pree Bright, and Tom Forsythe. Barbie’s image and logo regularly appear on books, lunch bags, and multimedia products. The doll is regularly reclothed in outfits which signal national and cultural cachet, both by its primary creator (Mattel) and its users (children at play and adult fans). Repeatedly redesigned to reflect evolving beauty standards, Barbie dolls are now available in a variety of skin tones, hairstyles, and physical shapes, as are their male counterparts. Dolls modeled on or celebrating public figures have further shifted the landscape, as consumers can now hold miniature versions of Vera Wang, Laverne Cox, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Eleanor Roosevelt, and more.
Just as Barbie has been reconfigured, so too have the accessories which accompany the doll, from dream houses and campers to farm sets and wheelchairs. High and low culture collide: Mattel’s @Barbiestyle Instagram account features dolls reclining on a miniature George Nelson Marshmallow Sofa, which retails in 1/6th scale for $1000; their parallel @Barbie account poses the doll on an $8 knock-off of Arne Jacobsen’s iconic Egg Chair. The disparity reflects the multiple uses of Barbie within our world: the doll’s interpretation depends as much on the person holding it as the physical artifact itself.
Even as Barbie dolls might be a tool of play or a symbol of many things, Barbie is also a brand and a product line–carefully crafted and marketed to include and exclude as the market demands. Importantly, Barbie is a major player as an international commodity. Despite recent efforts to develop a recycled doll, and to collect discarded dolls in 5 of the 150 countries where Barbie is sold, 58 million new plastic dolls are purchased every year. Barbie remains an important and lucrative component of Mattel’s brand portfolio, one the company is fiercely committed to protecting and extending.
This edited collection intends to explore the rich and diverse subject of Barbie and Material Culture. We welcome proposals for previously unpublished essays from various disciplines across the arts and humanities, with different methodological approaches. Possible topics could include, but are not restricted to:
Barbie and Material Culture
Adult Barbie Fans
Adult Barbie Collectors
Movies and Barbie
Barbie V. Bratz
Barbie of Swan Lake
African American Barbies
Dream House architecture
Barbie and Nostalgia
Barbie, Kitsch, and Camp
Representation of Barbie
Real Fashion History of
Indigenous and Precolonial Barbies
Barbie and Asian America
Barbie and Asia
Career Counseling and Career Barbie
Barbie and Robotics
Barbie and plastics
Barbie’s supply chain and manufacturing
Barbie and Recycling
Barbie and the Landfill
The business of Barbie
Barbie and Religion
Barbie and Motherhood/Parenting
Poetry and Barbie
Barbie and play
Barbie and Barbie bans
Barbie and the Law
Barbie and Disability
Barbie and Tourism
Deadline for Submissions: Proposal Deadline: Detailed proposals of up to 1000 words are due by March 31st, 2023. Accepted proposals will be notified by April 11th. The deadline for completed essays is Sept. 29th, 2023.
Submitted proposals should include a 500-word abstract, a partial CV (no more than one page), and a biographical statement (up to 150 words).
Please email questions and proposals to email@example.com
About the editors:
Jennifer Harris is Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo (Canada) where she teaches courses in American Literature and Children’s Literature. She’s the author of over 30 articles and book chapters. She is co-editor of From Page to Place: American Literary Tourism and the Afterlives of Authors (U of Massachusetts P) with Hilary Iris Lowe, and The Oprah Phenomenon (U of Kentucky P). She’s also a published picture book author who uses her children’s dolls to post about children’s literature on Instagram.
Hilary Iris Lowe is an Associate Professor of History and affiliate faculty in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program at Temple University. She teaches courses in U.S. women’s and cultural history, public history, and American studies. Her course on American Icons includes a popular Barbie unit.