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Material Culture Caucus

The Material Culture Caucus is an interest-based gathering of scholars within the American Studies Association (ASA), the professional organization for American Studies in the United States. Formed in 1994, the caucus seeks to promote the place of material culture studies both within the larger context of American history and culture, and the specific activities of the ASA.

The Material Culture Caucus sponsors a growing range of activities designed to create an ongoing forum for members of the material culture community. We work to address and promote the common interests of scholars and students through a variety of initiatives, which presently include:

  • Annual business meeting during the conference of the ASA (usually held in early November of each year). Since 1994 members of the caucus have gathered at each conference to plan the activities of the group for the coming year. Participation in the caucus is open to any interested member of the ASA. A steering committee works to carry out the goals of the caucus on an ongoing basis.
  • Annual reception during the conference of the ASA. The reception, which is jointly sponsored with the Art History/Visual Culture caucus, presents an informal opportunity for interaction and collegiality among members of the caucus.
  • Organizational advocacy. The Material Culture Caucus solicits and sponsors sessions relating to American material culture studies for inclusion in the program of the annual ASA conference. Likewise, the caucus seeks to promote an awareness of material culture through occasional columns in the ASA newsletter, with a presence on this Web site, and by maintaining ties with the ASA leadership.
  • Educational and scholarly resources. Material culture study is still a specialized (though growing) field, and more and more scholars in related disciplines are making use of material cultural resources in their teaching and research. The caucus works to provide high-quality resources at a range of levels, to promote not only the use of material cultural resources, but a high level of scholarship in the area. To this end, the caucus sponsors:
  • A moderated email discussion list, at the address artifact@listserv.umd.edu—please subscribe!
  • A growing World Wide Web site that includes bibliographies, examples, and teaching guides http://www.otal.umd.edu/amst/artifact/index.html

The Material Culture Caucus is still an evolving intiative, and we would be delighted to hear your comments and suggestions. Please join!

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Over the next two weeks, beginning Monday 19 January, the Caucus will be curating the ASA’s social media. We’ll share resources in the field and consider new ways to think about objects and use objects in our classroom—and in our research and in our life. Be there! Spread the word!

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Call for Participation: Material Culture Caucus at 2015 ASA Conference

The Material Culture Caucus of the American Studies Association wishes to encourage participation in the 2015 Annual Meeting: “The (Re)production of Misery and the Ways of Resistance,” October 8-11, 2015, Toronto, Canada. To read the conference Call for Papers please click here.  We hope to help link potential panelists with shared interests in material culture topics.

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Twenty Years, Twenty Questions to Ask an Object: The Video

Since its formation in 1994, the Material Culture Caucus has bridged the gap between university-based and museum-based scholars to promote the study of material culture in American Studies programs. To celebrate its twentieth birthday, the Caucus sponsored a workshop on Friday November 7, 2014, during the ASA national meeting in Los Angeles.

In the spirit of fun embedded in the conference theme, Debby Andrews, Sarah Anne Carter, Estella Chung, Ellen Gruber Garvey, and Catherine Whalen challenged workshop participants to play a variant of the classic game, “Twenty Questions.” Videographer Mark Escribano documented the event. To see how the workshop played out, and how such questions can inspire object-based exercises in the classroom or the museum, watch the video at:

Twenty Questions to Ask An Object

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Some follow up from the 2014 business meeting

More follow-up to our “Twenty years, twenty questions” workshop will be forthcoming. Here are notes from the business meeting.

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More Material Culture at 2014 ASA Annual Meeting

Expanded list of Material Culture Caucus events and sessions of interest:

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