Powerful Objects

Nowadays, material cultural studies ignite a great deal of interest throughout various disciplines within social sciences. However, this scenario is somewhat new, inasmuch the study of objects presents a long and forgotten history. Between the emplacement of the human mind throughout the Illustration and the “methodological skepticism” of Descartes, it became possible to consider that the material world was nothing more than a construct of the human mind, a surface without much power. Thus, things appeared only as phenomena, the refined outcome of our thought process, considered under the conditional status of technical tool or theoretical object. Finally, mass production and consumption allowed for a greater visibility of the material composition of the world, a phenomena which is mainly analysed as a sign of the illusory, the embodiment of our cold and unauthentic being, always in opposition to a non-material humanism.

This scenario has slowly changed. The way “things” are analysed have shifted from being considered mere efforts of antiquarians or fetishists to a vast and unexplored field of studies. Presently, various disciplines, such as anthropology, archeology, sociology, philosophy, history of art, architecture among others, have ascertained the importance of the role that objects play in societies inasmuch people create and re-create relationships ever more complex with the realm of objects which cannot be categorised as “consumerism” or “hedonism”.


Materiality and Politics

“the king went to change his clothes and came back draped in a bat-fur coat…” (J. Murra 1978)

The objects with which we interact predetermine the existence of various struggles around certain economics of power in the contemporary world. Tools, technologies, images, all of these can become agents on the road to empowerment or inequality, ranging from the performative elements of current or daily protests to the mechanisms of vigilance and repression.

We are interested in approaching political action as dynamic and heterogeneous action, which occurs throughout a period of time which is not necessarily limited to the present, and associating it with the vast unfolding of material culture which overlaps this process.

  • What type of objects are used in political demonstrations, public or private, and what are the observable effects they have?
  • How is the physical design of certain spaces and landscapes which are anointed with ideology or intentions, and which are the practices and responses that the actors, with more or less success, try to materialise?
  • How are subjects, objects and slogans combined in public situations of certain groups, states, nations, ethnical groups enabling new materialisations of the political being?
  • How do migrants, refugees, those persecuted and discriminated construe scenarios and material practices?
  • How have political discourses and practices changed according to materials changes that have occurred throughout modernity, considering a range of aspects like new technologies of communication or novel notions about the placement of man within the Anthropocene?



The goal is to show, think and clarify the crossings between political practices and the material world from our Latin-American outlook. An a priori temporal limit of these phenomena will not be imposed nor will any specific temporality of the issues analyzed privileged, but it is expected that the speakers who participate are able to stablish links between their presentations and present day reality.

Works will be accepted that discuss, for example, the following framework themes:

  • Spaces of physical material control, the naturalisation of those spaces through objects, militarized zones
  • Technologies for the transmission of ideas and political, state and critical propaganda.
  • New shapes of the materialisation of the political being.
  • Socio-political identities analysed in regards to the appropriation and the consumption of objects.
  • Materialisation of migrant lives.
  • The political agency of objects.
  • Gender materialisations.
  • Religious and politic materiality.
  • New material forms of the Anthropocene.



April – July 2017 Abstract submitting
August 2017 Presenters selection and communication
September 2017 Lecture submitting
November 30th, 2017 Day of the Symposium