Converting Natural Resources: Representations, Performances, Narratives

Friday, December 1, 2023–Saturday, December 2, 2023
9:00 am – 5:00 pm

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

Karel van Mallery after Jan van der Straet, "The Introduction of the Silkworm," engraving, c. 1595

Conference organized by Elisa Antonietta Daniele, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, University of California, Los Angeles/University of Bologna and Bronwen Wilson, University of California, Los Angeles

Co-sponsored by Making Green Worlds, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.

This conference considers visual, textual, material, and performative engagement with processes of commodification in the early modern world. It explores how images, objects, and practices converted environments into resources, natural resources into lucrative items with commercial and tax-yielding significance, and destructive forces and forced labor into idealized landscapes and aestheticized bodies. The conference shifts the focus from the collection and display of phenomena in cabinets of curiosities, to the mechanisms and processes through which raw materials were converted into commodities.

The commodity, and the creation of its idea, following Karl Marx, develops independently of its creators and is capable of triggering transformations of humans and landscapes. While worldly goods is a familiar theme from studies, for example, of still lifes and of tulip mania, this conference fastens onto resources, such as minerals, pearls, metals, pigments, glass, ambergris, sugar, and paper, and onto ways in which these materials accrued new values and meanings. Such conversions of resources into products often entailed material, formal, and social transformations, which were often managed through diverse media, re-mediation, and repetition. Accordingly, “Converting Natural Resources” considers how new audiences and consumers for commodities were cultivated through narratives, images, and artifacts.

Carrie Anderson, Middlebury College
Sonia Cavicchioli, University of Bologna
Taylor Clement, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
James Clifton, Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Kevin Dawson, University of California, Merced
Caroline Fowler, The Clark Art Institute
Matthew Gin, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Shannon Kelley, Fairfield University
Caroline LaPorte-Burns, McGill University
Bernadette Myers, New York University
Marissa Nicosia, The Pennsylvania State University – Abington College
Sylvia Tongyan Qiu, University of California, Los Angeles
Cambra Sklarz, University of California, Riverside
Angela Vanhaelen, McGill University

The conference is free to attend with advance registration, and will be held in-person at the Clark Library. Registration form will post here approximately one month in advance of the program. In-person registration will close on Monday, November 27 at 5:00 p.m. Seating is limited at the Clark Library; walk-in registrants are welcome as space permits.

Image: Karel van Mallery after Jan van der Straet, “The Introduction of the Silkworm,” engraving, c. 1595. (public domain)