Call for Papers: Materia Medica on the Move II: Contextualizing Drug Components as Collectables, Commodities, and cultural Markers in the Early Modern Period (Amsterdam, October 4-6, 2017; Deadline 19 June 2017)

After the successful Materia medica on the move conference in 2015, Utrecht University Descartes Centre, Huygens ING, and Naturalis Biodiversity Centre are to host a three-day follow-up conference, again devoted to the circulation of knowledge regarding non-native natural substances that were used in medicine in the early modern period (1500-1800). The conference will take place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 4 until 6 October 2017.

Goal of the conference

In recent years the history of non-native natural substances, to which therapeutic properties were attributed, has received substantial attention from scholars in a range of disciplines. The various contexts and perspectives from which these substances can be studied (e.g. medicinal, scientific, socio-cultural, ethnobotanical, artistic) have led to much cross-disciplinary research by historians of science, pharmacists, ethnobotanists, and the like. The conference intends to provide a platform for these researchers, to provide an overview of current research, and to exchange insights and ideas about the knowledge, trade, and acculturation of drug components in the past.

Keynote speakers

  • Matthew Crawford (Kent State University)
  • Patrick Wallis (The London School of Economics and Political Science)
  • Pratik Chakrabarti (University of Manchester)
  • Valentina Pugliano (University of Cambridge)

Paper submissions

We invite early and mid-career researchers to submit their work in progress, to be discussed in thematic parallel sessions. Themes to be addressed include, but are not limited to:

  • Hybridity in use: The ways in which materia medica have transgressed the boundaries of medical applicability, and how these use categories were culturally defined.
  • Agency of objects: How inherent natural characteristics of substances, and cultural identities acquired in the global circulation process, have shaped and transformed the meaning of materia medica.
  • Collections and collectors: How collections of materia medica, collected drawings of materia medica, herbaria and the like reflect the ideas and visions of the collectors.
  • Commodification: The processes that turned materia medica into consumer products, making them recognizable and knowledgeable for a large audience; and the people and places associated with these processes.
  • Identity formation: The ways in which medicinal natural substances, and knowledge about them, has shaped social and cultural identities across European and non-European cultures.
  • Knowledge and power: The mechanisms that have been used to create and maintain positions of power (often associated with “empire”) based on new knowledge and goods in the domain of materia medica.

Although most of the historical evidence and modern research relates to plants, we encourage presentations that focus on mineral and animal drug components. We also encourage presentations that are based on surprising new types of sources for this field of research. Selected authors will be given the opportunity to publish their work in a special journal issue.

Organization and contact

Abstracts (for 15 minute presentations) should contain the name of the speaker, full contact address (including email address), the title and a summary of the paper of no more than 400 words. Abstracts should be sent to Peter van den Hooff before June 19, 2017.

The conference fee is €100,=. Please be aware that this fee does not include accommodation. MA-students may apply for a reduced conference fee of €60,=. Registration will open in April.