From ceramic vessels to elaborate textiles, the ancient and early modern periods are rich with portable objects. Although art historians regularly interpret and even define whole classes of objects as “mobile,” they often move in unusual and interesting ways. Viewed cross-culturally, a series of paradoxes beset the attempt to define and characterize the “mobile” object. Not all objects that appear mobile physically move, while seemingly immobile objects can in fact travel. Things may be considered “mobile” if they have the power to move people, whether as an accessory to travel, through the reconceptualization of space, or by demanding movement of their viewers. Furthermore, the transit of a thing into a new context can redefine it or inspire the invention of an entirely new type of object. In this session, we wish to call attention to the diversity of cultural phenomena that fall under the auspices of the “mobile” and “portable.”
We are interested in studies that theorize the topic within current scholarly discourses of mobile objects, to include approaches such as pilgrimage, itinerancy, trade, phenomenology, cartography, encounters, and memory, among others. We welcome papers that consider the following questions: How do objects move? Why do people move objects? What types of objects move people? Can objects inspire movement in more ways than one? How does time alter movement? Are new meanings generated when an object is placed in a novel context?