Call for Session at the 64th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, New Orleans

Initiated by the Making Worlds Project1 (, which investigates recent questions posed by the global turn in the humanities (including art history, literature, anthropology and history), this panel seeks papers that engage with the representational and conceptual ways in which the world was conceived, imagined and inscribed between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. Through representing, collecting, utopian writing, map-making, trading, encountering and describing the world, early modern artists, traders, writers and natural philosophers were in fact bringing the world nearer to them. Taking cue from Martin Heidegger’s concept of worlding as an ontological process of bringing-near—or thinging—the world, which is always both pre-existing and historically contingent, we are interested in gaining a more nuanced understanding of what the world meant epistemologically, philosophically, geographically, technologically and cosmologically in the longue durée of the early modern period. In particular, we want to explore how things, such as objects, texts, and works of artistic and visual culture, mediated and participated in world-making.

We invite papers that take up different case studies which engage with material and visual representations of the world, including those that attend to how and why in its making such conceptualizations were either totalizing, flawed, or even impossible. Please send your 150-word abstracts, with a title, keywords, and a 300-word CV to Tomasz Grusiecki ( and Ivana Vranic ( by May 30, 2017.

  • 1.

    The Making Worlds project is developing an historical understanding that will contribute to contemporary debates about the effects that living in a transcontinental world has upon forms of creativity, identity, and practice. The five-year project is based at McGill University and is supported by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Developing a new collaborative model of graduate and faculty research in the humanities is central to our approach. Our membership includes professors and students from the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of East Anglia, the University of British Columbia and McGill. Together, we will test and explore a series of case studies and methodological propositions in collaborative research and workshops.

    Early modernity witnessed a massive dislocation of people, thereby opening up new ways of understanding the world. This is a period characterized by migration, violence, and death as a result of religious conflicts, expanding trade routes, missionary activities, slavery, colonization and disease among other historical concerns. Movement across bodies of water and geographical borders offered new possibilities for interactions, for testing out identities, and for experimentation with various forms of culture. Making Worlds aims to investigate this expanding image of the world by focusing on artistic creativity, and the ways in which imagining, digesting and translating worlds, broadly construed, have been central to their making and remaking. The focus on art—on producing and engaging with it, on self-presentation and performance—foregrounds the critical creative and imaginative processes involved in making worlds.

    We aim to develop a series of interrelated accounts of movement, migration, and invention through and within cosmopolitan spaces such as cities, ports, ships, trading posts, markets, exhibition sites, gardens, menageries, collections, inns, taverns, warehouses. These are spaces that are open to becoming something new, provisional instead of fixed in their form; they are not inherently hierarchical nor merely commercial, but inflected by global relations of power; they are spaces in which distance and presence are brought into consideration with each other. Such spaces, we contend, have much to teach us about how cross-cultural exchanges and artistic entanglements occurred in the early modern world.

As per RSA guidelines, proposals must include the following: paper title (15-word maximum), abstract (150-word maximum), keywords, and a very brief curriculum vitae (300-word maximum). See