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The Materiality of Festivity

Special issue of the Journal of Festive Studies

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Published on Monday, July 01, 2019 by Anastasia Giardinelli


In previous issues, the Journal of Festive Studies explored the emerging academic sub-field of festive studies (broadly defined) and the politics of carnival. For this issue, we follow Peter-Paul Verbeek’s advice and look at “the things themselves,” i.e. at the material culture in which carnivals and other festivities are rooted (Verbeek, 2005).



In previous issues, the Journal of Festive Studies explored the emerging academic sub-field of festive studies (broadly defined) and the politics of carnival. For this issue, we follow Peter-Paul Verbeek’s advice and look at “the things themselves,” i.e. at the material culture in which carnivals and other festivities are rooted (Verbeek, 2005).

The 1996 inaugural editorial for the Journal of Material Culture defined Material Culture Studies as “interdisciplinary research in ways in which artifacts are implicated in the construction, maintenance and transformation of social identities” and as the “investigation of the relationship between people and things irrespective of time and place” (Editorial,1996). More recent studies have expanded the scope of the discipline to look at the agency of things (Latour, 2005), thus rejecting “any absolute ontological distinction between humans and things” (Roberts, 2017). The field has also seen a shift from the exclusive focus on consumption to an investigation of the production of objects and materials (Adamson, 2013 and 2018 and Smith, 2012). Other approaches include investigations of ways in which the exchange of objects shapes social life and experiences; how that process is negotiated intra-cultures (Appadurai, 1986); and the environmental impact of those objects and materials (Clarke-Hazlett, 1997, Ingold, 2012, and Morton, 2013). Furthermore, there has been a move to understand the materiality of things beyond finished manufactured products, or the raw matter of which these objects consist of, in all of its socio-historical and political implications (Lange-Berndt, 2015, Ingold, 2012, and Rosler et al., 2013). Scholars of festivities have also paid attention to the “things” that constitute the phenomena they investigate, whether by poetically capturing in photos and in text the embodiment of Caribbean history and identity in Trinidadian Mas (Adonis Browne, 2018); by analyzing how banners and flags display identity through color in Belfast’s Orange Parade (Jarman, 2003); or by questioning why we consume (or abstain from consuming) certain foods during festivities (Avieli, 2009).

Building on such scholarship, and taking the material record of celebrations from all time periods and geographical areas as a starting point, this special issue of Journal of Festive Studies seeks to explore the following themes/questions:

The things themselves: costumes, jewelry, makeup, musical instruments, the body itself, posters, flags and banners, float designs, paintings of Renaissance processions, sheet music, photographs, food, etc. What does the material record of festivities include?

The preservation of that material culture: What are the politics of curating and what are the material constraints bearing on archival sites?

Objects as part of a mise-en-scène of identity: How is identity created-recreated-negotiated through masking, costumes, makeup, etc.? How is gender and sexual normativity created/expressed/challenged through interactions with objects in celebrations?

Imagining communities: What is the role of these objects/materials/artifacts in the creation of imagined communities during these celebrations? How do individuals and communities relive and reinvent traumatic pasts through rituals and the artifacts used to physically manifest them?

The evolution and circulation of things: How does the material record of celebrations change over time, reflecting different socio-historical moments? How do geopolitical realities, global capitalism, and the flow of ideas and things affect the material record of celebrations?

What role do these objects play in current debates on decoloniality and cultural appropriation?

The environmental problems caused by the objects/materials used in festivities (such as the plastic pollution of Mardi Gras beads in the U.S. Gulf Coast) and the environmental solutions encountered by festival organizers and revelers (such as the ban on glitter in Sydney’s LGBTQ Mardi Gras.)

Contributors may also choose to focus on some of the methodological issues faced by scholars researching festivities across the globe and how does material culture feature in these processes. For instance, how does equipment affect the way the researcher interacts with their subject? What sorts of objects, outfits, and accouterments are used in the researcher’s “performance of self” during fieldwork and how might that affect their relation to the people and environment they are observing?

In line with the interdisciplinary nature of the Journal of Festive Studies, we welcome submissions of original research and analysis rooted in a variety of fields including (but not limited to): social and cultural history, anthropology, archeology, cultural geography, art history, architecture, decorative arts, technology, folklore, musicology, consumption studies, labor studies, museum studies, and design studies. In addition to traditional academic essays, we invite contributions that incorporate digital media such as visualizations, interactive timelines and maps, video and imagery.

Submission Guidelines

All documents should be between 6,000 and 12,000 words and should be uploaded

by December 31, 2019

to the journal's website, along with the author’s bio and an abstract of c. 250 words. Please consult the author’s guidelines under “Submissions” on the website for further submission specifications, such as citation methods. Please contact Isabel Machado (isabelmchd@gmail.com) with any questions.

Lead Journal Editors

  • Ellen Litwicki (Professor of History, State University of New York at Fredonia, USA)
  • Aurélie Godet (Associate Professor of American Studies, Paris Diderot University, France) 

Editorial Board

  • Lionel Arnaud (Professor of Sociology at Toulouse University, France) (2019-21)
  • Russell Belk (Professor of Marketing at York University, Toronto, Canada) (2019-21)
  • Linda A. Curcio-Nagy (Associate Professor of History, University of Nevada-Reno, USA) (2019-21)
  • Matthew Dennis (Professor Emeritus of History and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon, USA) (2019-23)
  • Nicole Ferdinand (Senior Lecturer in Management at Bournemouth University, UK) (2019-21)
  • Samuel Kinser (Professor Emeritus of History at Northern Illinois University, USA) (2019-23)
  • Alexis McCrossen (Professor of History at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA) (2019-23)
  • Jack Santino (Professor of Folklore and Popular Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA) (2019-21)
  • Alessandro Testa (Research Fellow, Institute of Sociological Studies, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic) (2019-21)
  • Lisa Voigt (Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Ohio State University, USA) (2019-23)
  • Shane White (Challis Professor of History at Sydney University, Australia) (2019-21)

Managing Editors

  • Cora Gaebel (Adjunct Professor of Cultural Anthropology, University of Cologne, Germany) (2017-present)
  • Vasiliki Sirakouli (Postdoctoral Researcher, Democritus University of Thrace and University of Ioannina, Greece) (2019-present)

Works cited

“Editorial.” Journal of Material Culture 1, no. 1 (March 1996): 5-14.

Adamson, Glenn. The Craft Reader. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2010.

Adamson, Glenn. The Invention of Craft. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2013.

Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.” Theory, Culture & Society 7, no. 2–3 (June 1990): 295–310.

Avieli, Nir. “‘At Christmas We Don’t Like Pork, Just Like the MacCabees’: Festive Food and Religious Identity at the Protestant Christmas Picnic in Hoi An.” Journal of Material Culture 14, no. 2 (June 2009): 219–41.

Bauer, Arnold J. Somos lo que compramos: historia de la cultura material en América Latina. México: Taurus, 2002.

Browne, Kevin Adonis. High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Photography. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2018.

Clarke-Hazlett, Christopher. “Interpreting Environmental History through Material Culture.” Material Culture Review / Revue de la culture matérielle, [S.l.], June 1997.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, and Eugene Rochberg-Halton. The Meaning of Things: Domestic Symbols and the Self. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Ingold, Tim. “Toward an Ecology of Materials.” Annual Review of Anthropology 41 (2012): 427-42.

Jarman, Neil. “Material of Culture, Fabric of identity.” In Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter, edited by Daniel Miller, 121-145. London: Routledge, 2003.

Lange-Berndt, Petra. Materiality. London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2015.

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Madison, D. Soyini. Critical Ethnography: Method, Ethics, and Performance. Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2012.

Roberts, Jennifer L. “Things: Material Turn, Transnational Turn.” American Art 31, no. 2 (Summer 2017): 64-69.

Rosler, Martha, Caroline Walker Bynum, Natasha Eaton, Michael Ann Holly, Amelia Jones, Michael Kelly, Robin Kelsey, Alisa LaGamma, Monika Wagner, Oliver Watson, and Tristan Weddigen. “Notes from the Field: Materiality.” The Art Bulletin 95, no. 1 (2013): 10-37.

Smith, Pamela H. “In the Workshop of History: Making, Writing, and Meaning.” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 19, no. 1 (2012): 4-31.

Verbeek, Peter-Paul. What Things Do: Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency, and Design. Penn State: Penn State University Press, 2005.


  • Tuesday, December 31, 2019


  • festivity, things, objects, consumption, material history


  • Aurélie Godet
    courriel : augodet [at] yahoo [dot] com

Information source

  • Aurélie Godet
    courriel : augodet [at] yahoo [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« The Materiality of Festivity », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, July 01, 2019, https://calenda.org/646171

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