CFP: Exchange and Entanglement: Early Medieval Objects and the Insular World

This is a CFP for session 6a at the IV. FORUM KUNST DES MITTELALTERS / FORUM MEDIEVAL ART 360° – Verortung, Entgrenzung, Globalisierung in Berlin & Brandenburg 20.-23.09.2017, session organisers are Catherine Karkov (Leeds) and Tina Bawden (Berlin). Deadline for proposals in English or German: 31st October 2016, for further information see

On account of the historical and geographical position of the British Isles, exchange has always been a fruitful topic for Insular art history. It is one that even lies at the heart of some definitions of “Insular art”, which can highlight elements common to the art of the Picts, Scots, Irish, Britons and Anglo-Saxons. It is also central to the relationship between the Insular world and Rome, connected to each other by networks of communication that spanned the Continent. While the topic of exchange has been addressed explicitly since at least the 1940s, methods and approaches have remained largely the same to the present day. The majority of historical studies are focused on topics such as sources, or patrons, or pilgrimage, collecting data on direct links and contacts, or they employ a comparative perspective, examining parallel developments, similarities and differences. For art historical studies questions of style, iconography, form, and influence remain paramount. In acknowledging and building upon the importance of exchange for the Insular world, this session at the same time seeks to expand our ways of conceiving of and studying issues of exchange. Rather than speaking generally of cultural exchange or specifically of artistic exchange, we wish to tackle exchanges on spatial, temporal and material levels, enabling new perspectives on the term and its limits. The three focus areas – place, time and object/thing – and their entanglements may provide starting-points for a reappraisal of exchange both in terms of what it allows us to study and how it allows us to study it. Recent developments in diffraction (or quantum) theory, object oriented ontologies, and ecocriticism, for example, offer some ways of recuperating the complexity and non-linearity, the depth and entanglement of exchange in the early Middle Ages.

We invite papers to address one or several of the following aspects, or related issues: – Networks of exchange in which objects or places are not strictly independent entities and must be understood as a single whole (e.g. complexities of a “North Sea” or a “Channel” culture instead of comparative “Britain and the Continent”; sea and channel as parts of place, or as active participants in the creation of place and practices of exchange; collections of objects – hoards, libraries etc. – as contingent networks constituting fossilised movement or exchange) – Temporal entanglement, the reworking of the past in the present or the present in the past as dimension of exchange (contexts of recycling or translation; e.g. manuscripts as temporally specific sites of exchange) – Conceiving of things as active subjects that might generate or enact exchange

While our session starts with issues of exchange in relation to Insular art, it thus seeks to challenge the boundaries this traditionally implies for areas of early medieval art history, both in terms of the places of artworks and in methodological terms. Our aim of theorizing exchange means, of course, that the resulting methodological questions may also be asked of further fields of (art) historical inquiry. We invite papers that contribute to a discussion of the notion of exchange by making transparent their methodology and approach. Papers can be case studies of individual objects or networks of objects from or illuminating to the study of the Insular world. Please send your proposals to:, or directly to the session organisers.

CFP: Exchange and Entanglement: Early Medieval Objects and the Insular World
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