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CFP Labor Relations: The Worker and the Arts - 6th Annual Symposium in Art History at UNC Chapel Hill

Type: Calls For Papers [View all]
Posted by: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Deadline: Mon, June 15th, 2020


Labor Relations: The Worker and the Arts

6th Annual Symposium in Art History 

September 19th, 2020 at Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


“Life without industry is guilt, and industry without art is brutality.” - John Ruskin

To strive, toil, plug away, labor, endeavor, grind, and slave away—this is just some of the vocabulary we use to describe work. To labor is part of the human condition; even those born to privilege still have obligations and struggles. Work itself is a broad concept whose associations change with the circumstances of culture, time, and technology. The Sixth Annual Symposium in Art History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill organized by the Art Student Graduate Organization (ASGO) invites papers that interrogate the relationships between art and labor: who works, what work is valued, and the social implications of labor. The physical toil of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s peasants or the working conditions in the photographs of Lewis Wickes Hine are evidence that the physicality of the laboring body has long preoccupied artists. We also wish to expand the understanding of the subject of labor beyond the picture plane to include the way art is produced. For example, one might consider the nature of Chinese porcelain production in the Ming Dynasty and its reverberations around the world through global trade. We encourage submissions that explore the various social roles of artists, the work of the artist’s studio assistants, and the labor involved in producing artistic material, among others.

We welcome submissions from students in various disciplines beyond art history, including those working on material culture from fields such as classics, literary studies, architecture, sociology, anthropology, history, political science, public history, urban studies, race and gender studies, museum studies, journalism, and other relevant disciplines.


Potential themes and topics may include, but are not limited to:

●      Depictions of labor

●      The production of decorative arts or craft

●      The role of architecture in facilitating or controlling forms of labor

●      How contemporary issues of labor are visualized in modern movements and workers’ rights discourses such as the Fight for Fifteen, the yellow vest protests, and fights for wage equality

●      The racialization of certain kinds of labor

●      Visual material used in labor movements

●      Art of the Industrial Revolution

●      French Realism and the gaze on manual workers as an elevated subject, such as in Gustave Courbet’s The Stone Breakers (1849).

●      Divisions of labor within the artist’s studio between a master, his or her assistants, and apprentices

●      Artist’s wives in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as contributors to the labor of artistic production

●      The labor of caretaking, both physical and emotional

●      Enforced labor and slavery, such as considerations of the slave body


Presentations should be 20 minutes in length and will be followed by a brief question and answer session with the audience. For more information, please visit:


Please submit an abstract (.doc/.docx/.pdf) of no more than 300 words and a CV to the Art Student Graduate Organization (ASGO) at by June 15th at 5:00 PM EST.


Participants will be notified via email by July 15th, 2020.


***Plans are currently being formulated to hold the conference on a digital platform, either partially or fully, if the effects of COVID-19 prevent us from meeting in person. Therefore, we urge interested parties to submit abstracts regardless of ability to travel.***


Posted on Wed, April 29th, 2020
Expires on Mon, June 15th, 2020

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