Call for papers

Shapes, colors, and contours are qualities that permeate our study sites, but not something we often think about carefully. At once universal and idiosyncratic, the shade of a garment, the curvature of a piece of fruit, or the texture of soil can reveal stories about rapid global change, histories of progress or decline, enduring relations of inequality, deep-seated prejudices and preferences, and fiercely contested questions of ethics and morality.

This conference puts forth an anthropology of form and qualities, and seeks to shed light on the patterned or contingent ways in which things take shape. Situated in a field perennially oscillating between oppositions, ours is an attempt to find new ways to keep process and the enduring simultaneously in view. This, in a sense, is a minimalist anthropology that approaches shapes, colors, and contours as ways of engaging with vastness and excess through elicitation, recall, synesthesia, and arousal. Shapes, colors, and contours are suggestive and evocative; they animate and stimulate, propose, provoke, and imply. Inspired by understandings from visual aesthetics, one may think of contouring, shapes, and colors as modes of engaging with form through process, embodiment, and value. Together they open for analyses different forms of emergence and the variously patterned emergence of form.

We encourage a reading across conventional divides, asking questions such as: What shapes are embodied through dance, irradiated bodies, sex, or burning shrub? What are the politics of the squareness of a red square? What are the contours of environmental degradation? What is the flavor of development? And finally, what might it mean to talk about anthropology itself as having texture, a tone, or a particular shape?

Colonialism, industrialism, modernity, and global environmental change have altered hues, moods, and textures in different ways around the world. We seek papers that attempt to link and mediate the material and political, the abstract and the concrete, the big and the small–and to do so through forms and qualities; through the sensual, the intimate, the ubiquitous, and the nitty-gritty details that surround us as humans and scholars.

Keywords: form, borders, patterns, senses, textures, affinities, shades, flavors, scents, dots, lines, matrices, fringes, surfaces, tones, moods, hue, opacity, light, scale, depths, value, radiations, ambience

We seek papers from advanced graduate students in any discipline, and posters from all graduate students, that explore these topics. We ask that submissions draw on a specific visual material to tell a story about how shapes, colors and contours emerge in your fieldsite. Paper should be accompanied by a visual that is not simply representative or iconic of the paper to be presented, but actually forms the basis upon which ideas presented are built. Senior scholars from across the discipline will comment and facilitate discussions on the papers. The deadline for submissions is Friday, January 24th, 2016. Please email your abstract (300 words) along with your name and institutional affiliation to: Questions can be directed to Jon Nyquist at