This one-day workshop examines the importance of matter in colonial encounters and to European self-understanding. Materiality and the history of things has recently come under increased scholarly scrutiny with the so-called material turn in historical research, with increasing emphasis being placed on the ways in which the material world around us—the nature, our built environment, the things we own—shapes our identity and conditions the possibilities of our agency.
Similarly, recent enquiries into European history have emphasised the extent to which Europe—its identity, material culture, and financial success—was made through its colonial subjugation of overseas Others. Matter not only propelled the European colonizing project, but it fundamentally changed and shaped it while getting changed and shaped itself in the process. European imperial identities, culture, science, economy, ecology, and society all revolved around defining, moulding and (ab)using matter in its different forms, but matter also produced, limited and redefined the parametres of European ways of thinking, acting, and being.
The interdisciplinary workshop will bring together established scholars, early career researchers, and postgraduate researchers examining the topic from a variety of cultural and intellectual history, literature, and historical geography perspectives. The symposium is organized in collaboration with the interdisciplinary Colonial Spaces, Colonial Power (COSCOP) research network and Helsinki Centre for Intellectual History. The keynote lecture will be given by Professor Amanda Vickery (Queen Mary, University of London), whose books include Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (2009) and Gender, Taste, and Material Culture in Britain and North America, 1700-1830 (2006).