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Call for Papers: Undergraduate Symposium in Material Culture Studies

November 02, 2021

Where is the study of design, material culture, and the decorative arts going? What questions will—or should—animate the field in the years to come? The Design History Forum at Drexel University invites papers for its inaugural Undergraduate Symposium in Material Culture Studies (USMCS), to be held via Zoom on Saturday, March 12th, 2022. We invite students who have taken classes in art history, design history, fashion studies, museum studies, and related disciplines to submit abstracts for fifteen-minute presentations that imagine new directions for material culture studies, broadly considered. 

We especially invite studies grounded in a specific object or set of objects that might expand or nuance our understanding of the following and/or their entanglements:

  • Race / Color                                      
  • Ethnicity / Nationalism
  • Gender / Sexuality 
  • Class / Privilege 
  • Colonization / Imperialism 
  • Virtual identities / Virtual worlds
  • Exhibition history / Public history 
  • Political activism / Dissent 
  • Public health / Public safety
  • Environmentalism / Ecological peril 

Hoping to foster a spirit of inclusivity and intellectual humility, we welcome papers that push the symposium’s animating questions in additional directions, too. If you have one such idea, please share!

Our virtual symposium will consist of two consecutive sessions of student papers and a keynote lecture by Professor Marci Kwon (Stanford), each followed by Q&A. The symposium will be free and open to all. 

To submit a proposal for a presentation, please email the following materials as a single pdf to Professor Joseph Larnerd at by 11:59pm EST on Saturday, November 20th, 2021:

  • Page #1: a cover page that includes your name, title of your proposed paper, university/college, as well as your academic major and year of study 
  • Page #2: a 200-word abstract that introduces your object(s), foregrounds your paper’s thesis and/or central interpretation, and briefly explains how you intend to support it 

Your proposal should be double spaced and in 12 pt. Times New Roman font. The document name and subject of your email should read as follows: “USMCS Proposal—Your Last Name.” 

Proposals will be reviewed by a panel of scholars active in the field of material culture studies who will also serve as session respondents. Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by December 11th. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to email We look forward to receiving your abstract!


The inaugural Undergraduate Symposium in Material Culture Studies at Drexel University,organized by Professor Joseph Larnerd of the Department of Art & Art History, is funded by a grant from the Decorative Arts Trust of Media, Pennsylvania.