The matter of silver: substance, surface, shimmer, trauma

Mon 26 - Wed 28 Jul 2021, 13:30 - 16:00

Online event
Metal sculpture of hands holding hilt of sword

Event ended

British Academy Conferences bring together scholars and specialists from around the world to consider and evaluate new research in the humanities and social sciences.

How and why did silver, more widespread than gold, extracted by force from the Andes, marked by trauma, become par excellence marker of and substance of social, political and spiritual refinement in Europe? This conference investigates silver as more than means or measure of empire, more than mere currency of emergent capitalism, more than inert matter from which luxury objects were fashioned, to ask how might these disparate stories, these two sides to the same coin, be brought together. What happens when we think them in relation?

This conference brings together scholars and practitioners from across the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and institutions beyond the academy, including museums and galleries, to explore silver as an extraordinarily productive site of exchange and transformation in the early modern world and beyond.

Diverse expertise, currently siloed in institutional and disciplinary terms, examines silver and its impact politically, socially, ecologically, territorially, technically, artistically, and economically and yet that expertise has not been brought together in cross-fertilisation. Economic experts tend to view silver in quantitative terms; Latin Americanists concerned with silver’s role in colonialism on one side of the Atlantic ignore entirely its role in Spanish colonialism in Europe; curators tend to approach individual objects without reference to the new materialism or recent historical research in artisanal knowledge; art historians explore silver high-end objects without reference to silver’s extraction; mining specialists ignore silver’s convulsive impact on the commodity frontier and its ecological and social impact across the world. The time is ripe to bring together disparate expertise and to think about silver outside and across traditional formations.

Conference convenor:
Professor Helen Hills, University of York

Dr Marlen Bidwell-Steiner, University of Vienna, Austria
Professor Allison Bigelow, University of Virginia, USA
Dr Margaret Bolton, University of Aberdeen
Dr Spike Bucklow, University of Cambridge
Professor Thomas B. F. Cummins, Harvard University, USA
Professor Claire Farago, University of Colorado, USA
Dr Michele A. Feder-Nadoff, Artist and anthropologist, Mexico
Professor Timothy Ingold FBA, University of Aberdeen
Dr Sergius Kodera, University of Vienna, Austria
Professor Kris Lane, Tulane University, USA
Professor Jane Mangan, Davidson College, USA
Dr Wim Nys, DIVA Museum, Antwerp, Belgium
Dr Elena Phipps, UCLA/Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA
Dr Timothy Schroder, Goldsmiths' Company
Professor Lisa Voigt, The Ohio State University, USA

This three day conference will take place on Zoom. Please book each afternoon separately.

A link will be sent out the day before for each afternoon booked, along with a PDF of the programme and speaker biographies.

Image: © Marina Cotugno

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