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Object Emotions: Polemics

Object Emotions - PolemicsA Two-Day Interdisciplinary Conference
(April 15-16, 2016, University of Cambridge)

Organising Committee: Hunter Dukes (University of Cambridge); Marta Figlerowicz (Yale University); Padma Maitland (UC Berkeley); Christopher P. Miller (UC Berkeley); Hannah Rose Woods (University of Cambridge).

“Object Emotions: Polemics” continues a critical dialogue about new directions in humanities research and theory that began at UC Berkeley in 2013 and continued at Yale in 2015. This series of conferences is inspired by the heightened attention to objects and emotions as new points of entry into history, literature, art, architecture, area studies, and the social sciences. Through focused attention on the role of things and feelings, materials and affects, we aim to foster interdisciplinary reflections about the intersections between thing theory, affect theory, the histories of emotions, and new materialisms.

Papers presented at the two prior meetings addressed topics as varied as the ennui of poetic syntax, the felt traces of Chinese calligraphy, the mixing of pleasure and pain in the design of a nineteenth century girls’ school, and the politics of castration and swordplay in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. These divergent projects were organised into panels around common threads of questions related to spatiality, temporality, personhood, cultural production, and historiography.

Object Emotions: Polemics seeks critical responses to the emergence of these intersecting discourses. For example, how do objects and emotions establish new intellectual grounds, complicate existing histories, and help us question the assumptions that motivate our disciplines? What are the limits to affect theories, object-oriented criticism, or speculative realisms and their local applications? What are the social and political origins of the current turns to emotions and objects? How do we account for the newness of “new materialisms” and how might the use of such theories change when we consider them within other contexts—cultural, social, political? Do these theories extend certain critical biases or discourses of power and how might we restore what has been left out, or occluded by, these new critical turns? How do these approaches to objects and emotions reflect broader struggles with the formation of departments and academic institutions as such?

The conference will be held jointly between Gonville and Caius College, and Peterhouse, University of Cambridge.