Workshop: Making Things Speak: Objects, Commodities, and Societies in Historical Perspective

Making Things Speak: Objects, Commodities, and Societies in Historical Perspective

Workshop at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin
June 23-25, 2011

Registration deadline: June 21, 2011

The “Making Things Speak” workshop investigates objects and their agency — how they are transformed (or not) by their uses and contexts and how they impact human lives. The past twenty-five years have seen a proliferation of writings tracing social practices of exchange and consumption through the objects of material culture. This has added to an already existing body of literature in museology and art history focusing on the objects themselves, their production, and their exhibition.

Following objects across the boundaries of Europe and the Middle East, the workshop brings together perspectives from museology, art and architectural history, and social history. By combining object-based and social-based approaches, the aim ophof this workshop is not only to explore the tension between objects as exhibited and as everyday pieces, but also to discuss how the line separating the two is constituted, crossed, and conceived of.

The workshop is convened by Stefan Weber (Museum für Islamische Kunst / Member of EUME) and Toufoul Abou-Hodeib (Fellow of EUME 2010/11) and co-organized by the “Europe in the Middle East—The Middle East in Europe” research program (EUME), Museum für Islamische Kunst (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), and Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz (Max-Planck-Institut).

Keynote Lecture, June 23, 19.00:
Ernst J. Grube, Professor Emeritus, Università degli Studi, Venezia
“From the Fatimid Treasuries of Cairo: A Thousand-Year-Old Rock Crystal Ewer from the Edmund de Unger Collection”

Presentations, June 24-25:
– Toufoul Abou-Hodeib, Fellow of EUME 2010/11
“A Tale of a Phonograph: Foreign Objects in a Late Ottoman City”

– Hannah Baader, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz
“The Votive Object: Making Things Speak and Act”

– Hester Dibbits, Meertens Institute (KNAW) / Netherlands Open Air Museum
“Exotic Commodities in a Dutch Fishing Village, 1650–1800”

– Margaret Graves, University of Edinburgh
“Model and Microcosm: Architecture and the Miniature”

– Gisela Helmecke, Museum für Islamische Kunst
“Some Remarks about a Biography of Objects in Museums”

– Nabila Oulebsir, Université de Poitiers, CRIHAM / CRIA-EHESS
“Museums and Collections in European and Non-European Contexts: Transcultural Transfers in the Mediterranean”

– Amanda Phillips, Max Planck Fellow, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz / Museum für Islamische Kunst
“Ottoman Goods in Ottoman Houses: Theme and Variation”

– Christian Sassmannshausen, Freie Universität Berlin
“Les mauvais sujets de Tripolis: Social Things and the Display of Conflicting Identities”

– Avinoam Shalem, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
“For Your Eyes Only: The Objective Condition”

– Eva Troelenberg, Max Planck Fellow, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz / Museum für Islamische Kunst Museum
“Narratives and the Eloquence of the Aesthetic: The Case of the Mshatta Façade”

– Stefan Weber, Museum für Islamische Kunst / Member of EUME
“The Biography of Things — Things of Biographies: The Trajectories of Objects in Time, Space, and Society”

– Gerhard Wolf, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz
“Talking Boxes and Singing Vessels: Towards a Poetics of Receptacles”

The full program is available at:

Click to access making-things-speak.pdf

Please register at

* “Europe in the Middle East—The Middle East in Europe” is a five-year research program of the Berlin- Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.


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