The conference about “Tokens: Culture, Connections, Communities” will be held at the University of Warwick on 8-10 June 2017. The keynote speakers are Professor Denise Schmandt-Besserat (Texas), Professor Bill Maurer (UC Irvine).
The roles and power of the everyday objects in constituting social life has increasingly become an area of interest across multiple disciplines. Often used or handled unconsciously, everyday objects nonetheless enable different types of governance, relationships and communities, contributing to the formation and maintenance of ideologies, identities and normative orders. This conference focuses on one category of everyday object, the token, inviting an interdisciplinary exploration of the roles these objects have played from the beginnings of human civilisation until the present day. These small, unassuming objects perform significant functions within human society, and have shaped communities, institutions and relationships over time.
‘Token’ is a deceptively simple object category whose boundaries remain difficult to define. Is there a difference between ‘tokens’ and ‘money’, between ‘tokens’ and ‘symbols’, or between tokens and other categories of object? How should we approach and study these objects? Can a historical perspective on tokens offer a better understanding of these media and their role in the present day? We invite submissions from those working with tokens across all time periods, including (but not limited to) museum curators, artists, archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, sociologists, numismatists and material culture specialists. An interdisciplinary approach will enable us to develop a better understanding of tokens and their ubiquitous presence in many cultures across time. Papers might address the following questions, or pose others:
– how have tokens operated as a form of alternative currency across time?
– how do tokens enable the formation of different governmental systems? (e.g. elections, legal systems, transport, commerce)
– how have tokens contributed to cultural and cognitive development? (e.g. writing, mathematics, philosophy or other cognitive processes)
– how might tokens formulate and maintain different communities, and communal identity?
– what roles do tokens play in funeral, religious or other (liminal) contexts?
– what role do tokens play in human relationships?
– what emotional or psychological role do these objects possess?
– what methodological approaches can we use to better understand tokens?
We invite papers of 20 minutes duration. Proposals should include a title, name, email address, and an abstract of no more than 300 words, emailed to C.Rowan@warwick.ac.uk by 1st December 2016. An edited volume of select papers arising from the conference is envisaged.