The Politics of Things: Material Cultures Seminar

Event Date: 
23 Jun 2011

The Open University, Milton Keynes
Library Presentation Room, Ground Floor Library


A one-day seminar exploring the role of material culture in materializing (or obscuring) partisanship and factional allegiance.

Keynote speaker, Serena Ferente (Kings College, London)

Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444) ridiculed the citizens of Siena for the many ways - secret and overt - in which they communicated their factional allegiances. Political sides were communicated by the ways in which bread, garlic or fruit was cut and wine poured. Certain saints were claimed by one or both sides as belonging to and protecting their parties for often spurious reasons.
* What are the signals of partisanship, political bias and factional allegiance in material culture?
* What are the methodological challenges of making often invisible allegiances visible? 
* How far can we go in 'reading in' allegiances in otherwise mundane objects, signs, written sources, music or events?

Contact: Carol M. Richardson ( by 10 June to book a place - essential if you want coffee/lunch!


10.30 - 11.00  Coffee
11.00 - 12.00  Serena Ferente, "A web of images. Visual signs of party allegiance in late medieval Italy"
12.00 - 12.30  Janet Huskinson, "'Christian', 'Crypto-Christian', or ' Not Christian at all'?? How to discuss some imagery on third century Roman sarcophagi"
12.30 - 13.00  Jill Harrison, "Giotto's Ognissanti Madonna; a political reading"
13.00 - 13.45  Lunch
13.45 - 14.15  Carol M. Richardson, "The Holy Family as a symbol of Guelf allegiance?"
14.15 - 14.45  Piers Baker-Bates, "'Imperial identity as displayed in sixteenth-century portraiture; a preliminary study"
14.45  Closing remarks and tea