CfP: Illuminating Social Science

Stichtag: 30. Juni 2014

For this edited volume, we are seeking proposals from established scholars for chapters of 6000–8000 words that explore the use of two-dimensional art such as watercolors, oil paintings, manuscript illuminations, drawings, cartoons, comic strips and others, to illuminate and explore social theories and settings. Although photography and film are popular media in visual sociology and visual studies, we are not so much interested in these media in their own right, but rather in their combinations with other two-dimensional media.

Going beyond the direct visual interpretation of such art, which might focus on technique and aesthetic, we are interested in un-layering the artwork, to arrive at interpretations that reveal societal structures, in sub-layers or plateaux that may or may not have been intended by the artist who produced the artwork. The un-layering may reveal where layers are melded together, and the overall visual and intellectual engagement with the artwork may lead to new understandings of existing social theories or to new theories altogether.

As an example, in Giovani Segantini’s (1894) piece Die Bösen Mütter, the act of infanticide is implied by the symbolism of several overlapping images: the woman is depicted with naked breasts and very little or no clothing. The gossamer brown web covering her might as well have been an additional set of twigs on the tree (possibly symbolizing societal hierarchy, against which she seems to have been blown by the wind (another symbol of societal forces). The barely visible head of her infant is sucking (greedily) at her exposed breast, even though its unclothed mother is in obvious jeopardy, attached to the “hierarchical” tree by her hair and web-like covering. Making use of Deleuze and Guattari’s theoretical concept of the rhizome, we may consider that the rhizomatic opaque mire is ready to swallow one or both following the next gust of wind, eventually washing the remains up on the opposite shore, to join others who have undergone similar fates. Interaction with the artwork loosens the faculties for theorizing because one does not have to juggle abstract terms such as patriarchy, gender socialization, and so on.

We are particularly, but not uniquely, interested in contributions that explore the following topics:

  • To what extent can two-dimensional art be seen as consisting of layers or plateaux that can be peeled away one by one or collectively, either with or without a particular order, to reveal societal structures?
  • How do “washes”, enhanced or de-emphasized perspectives or other techniques used in the arts reveal understanding about society? How do focus, mood, tone approach time passing? How do colors, hues, shadings, layers, or the simultaneous use of various media help determine focus? Are the techniques themselves part of social worlds?
  • Are reflexive thinking and theorizing about social contexts encouraged by creating, seeing, and interpreting two-dimensional art?
  • How does the inclusion and interpretation of art in social science differ from established practices in visual sociology and visual studies?
  • What meanings can be interpreted from the titles of artworks? How do they guide us through interpretation? Do titles hinder or inspire social understandings in particular ways? Can they distract or assist in understanding? Should titled be clear?
  • Can aesthetic terminology, such as mise en abŷme, mise en scène, and others help in theorizing and evoking new ways to “imagine” social worlds, e.g. the queering of social problems and concepts, for scholars and for larger audiences?

Send chapter proposals and a two-page resume by June 30, 2014, as email attachments with a tentative title and a 500-word abstract to either or both of the co-editors, who are faculty members in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at Central Michigan University:
Brigitte H. Bechtold, Ph. D.:
Amanda E. Garrison, Ph. D.:

Accepted chapters must be completed by March 30, 2015

Brigitte Bechtold
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Central Michigan University
137 Anspach Hall
Mt. Pleasant MI 48850
Phone: 989-954-1123
Fax: 989-774-1844

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