Primary Materials

Inspired by the primary materials of industry, the prima materia of alchemical transformation, and the primary sources of historical practice, this forum is a site of exchange for perspectives on materials and materiality. The "material turn" revealed that the world is made up of much more than the human, a realization that has inspired a generative polyphony of experimental approaches to the study of objects, things, matter, and materials. Scholars in art history, anthropology, the history of science, and other disciplines have worked to develop more inclusive narratives and explanatory tools related to the nonhuman. From “things that talk” to the “thickness of things,” from “the posthuman” to “vibrant matter,” materials are now widely acknowledged as active contributors to the making of knowledge, economies, and ecologies. These commitments continue to inspire new methods, collaborative initiatives, and theoretical lines, as conversations surrounding the material come to encompass emergent concerns from the digital to the environmental.

Through conversations with a range of scholars and practitioners, this project connects distinct approaches to the study of the material to ask where the “material turn” has led and where it might still take us. The forum is an ongoing, open-ended editorial project committed to accessibility and interdisciplinary conversation.

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