What’s the Matter? Ambiguous Relations and Material Rules in Action

Organizers: Melanie Ford, Rice University (melanie.ford@rice.edu) and Anissa Gastelum, University of California, Irvine (angastel@uci.edu)


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “matter” as: 1. a subject under consideration; and 2. the substance of which a physical object is composed. Whether substance or subject, anthropological engagement with matter and materialisms have a profound history in anthropology since material culture studies to more recent anthropological conversations regarding the nonhuman. How might we as ethnographers engage with the quality of ambiguity in relation to action and material conditions of power? This panel intends to extend theorizations of matter, as a configuration of substance and subject, in melding matter as an analytic that sparks unique ethnographic questions and modes of engagements. We ask, how can questions about matter’s very existence and delineation guide anthropological discourse on forms and material theory?
Playfully in conversation with this year’s theme, we invite abstracts from those who are interested in seeking, troubling, and blending the commonplace conceptions and definitions of matter by interrupting matter’s conventional existence in production, temporal, physical and other contexts. We encourage abstracts from a broad array of topical interests that engage with matters and materialisms including, but not limited to, the environment, gender and sexuality, science and technology, the law and ethics, and thematic work on: textural, scalar, and anti– and non– matters. If interested, please submit your abstracts to Mel Ford (melanie.ford@rice.edu) and Anissa Gastelum (angastel@uci.edu) by April 2nd, 2017.