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Material Witness

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Material Witness: Taste, Contact and Memory
University of Kent, 22nd-24th May 2017.

Material Witness this year is taking the form of a residential course at the University of Kent where we will work intensively to explore theoretical concepts about materiality in respect of the ideas of ‘taste’, ‘contact’ and ‘memory’. Taste has been a key concept in respect of material culture studies since the publication of Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction (1984), with his concept of ‘cultural capital’ intimately linked to the accrual of particular, socially prestigious kinds of taste. Guided by some experts in material culture theory, the residential will explore how ideas of ‘contact’– in terms of both communication between people and the sense of touch – and the faculty of memory allow us to re-examine this critical concept.  The residential will feature practical sessions, through which you will work in detail with various types of material things as critical prompts, alongside reading and discussion groups around key theory in the field. Delegates will be asked to apply readings to their own research before presenting on these findings. The residential, and the delegates’ incorporation of their readings into their own research, will feature on the Material Web (, and worked up versions will be published as a special issue in the CHASE Encounters journal.

Accommodation will be provided.

Provisional programme

Monday 22nd May

Session 1 (1-2): Introductions and discussion of preliminary reading; adoption of objects for discussion and writing project.

Session 2 (3-5): Visit to Canterbury Cathedral Archive and Library to view documents and other objects.

Session 3 (6-7): Plenary lecture, Dr Stephen Kelly, Queen’s Belfast, on ‘Taste’

Tuesday 23rd May

Session 1 (10-12): Discussion of reading set for the day.

Session 2 (1-3): Beaney House of Art and Knowledge ( to handle objects.

Session 3 (4-6): Writing session for all participants (production of presentation for following morning/materials for blog).

Session 4 (6-7): Plenary lecture, Prof William Engle, Sewanee: The University of the South, on ‘Memory’.

Wednesday 24th May

Session 1 (9-11): Presentation on chosen objects.

Session 2 (11:30-12:30): Roundtable on Taste, Contact and Memory (Engel, Kelly, Richardson, Perry and others).

Session 3 (12:30-1): Final round-up and planning of written work.