Call for Papers

Transnational Collecting: Objects Crossing Borders, Objects Transformed

Julie Codell, Chair

What happens to objects when they cross borders and enter collections located beyond the cultures or nations in which they were produced? Objects don’t have fixed meanings, and collectors are a vital source of redefinitions and revaluations of objects they collect. Collectors translate and appropriate objects to their cultures, personal tastes, social milieux and ideologies. Objects crossing borders challenge notions that works have autonomy or transcend time and place, eliciting important questions about collectors’ roles in valuation and signification. Walter Benjamin described collecting as “the most profound relation that one can have to things.” In his view, collectors hide behind objects, glorify them, fetishize them and confer on objects “only a fancier’s value, rather than use-value,” turning objects into art (Charles Baudelaire, 168). Such comments raise important questions that panelists may consider:


  • Why do collectors seek artworks or objects from other cultures, nations or time periods?
  • What do collectors know or imagine about objects’ original meanings or cultural worth?
  • How do collectors appropriate objects, translating, de-contextualizing and re-contextualizing them in new personal, national, cultural and even historical contexts?
  • What affect, or memories, or imaginings, or valuations, or narratives or de/re-contextualizations are part of collectors’ glorification or fetishization of objects?
  • What might it mean for collectors to hide behind objects in their collections?
  • How do collectors transform transnational objects from commodities into art for objects that cross spatial or temporal borders and thus undergo displacement, re-signification and new aesthetic and economic values in cross-cultural exchanges across time, space and cultures?

Submit proposals online through the CAA website.


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