Session at the 108th College Art Association of America Annual Conference

Robert Wellington, and Alex Thomas Burchmore, Australian National University 

This session will consider the personal dimensions of transculturality revealed by our relationship with material culture, seeking to interrogate the role that objects from elsewhere can play in the construction of identity. Theories of transculturation have come to occupy a position of prominence in the study of art history, reflecting a growing desire to explore previously overlooked cultural connections and networks. Ideas of the transcultural have been used to great effect to dispute a traditional view of cultures as self-contained, homogeneous entities, as well as the persistent Eurocentrism that continues to haunt discussions of globalisation or global art history. Nevertheless, most art-historical studies present transculturality almost exclusively in collective terms, focusing on the overlapping of cultures and communities across self-imposed or externally enforced borders with little thought for more intimate aspects of transculturation.

Just as objects can instantiate the broad dimensions of transcultural identity in their movement between cultures, so they can also shed light on personal identity formation as material anchors for narratives of the self. This session aims to be trans-historical. We invite proposals for papers that might focus on (but will not be limited to): the incorporation of objects from elsewhere into local performances of identity; the multiple association of objects with memories of other times and places; the construction of collections; the significance of mementoes and souvenirs as vessels for remembrance of former selves; and artistic projects of rediscovery or recombination in which aspects of personal heritage are mobilised within composite visions of identity.