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Helen Hills awarded British Academy Conference grant

Posted on 1 June 2020

The Department of History of Art is delighted to announce that Professor Helen Hills has been awarded a much coveted British Academy Conference Grant for The Matter of Silver: Trauma, Substance, Surface, Shimmer, an international interdisciplinary conference to take place in Summer 2021.

Academics from across the humanities, social sciences and sciences, silversmiths, assayers and museum curators from Latin America, USA, and Europe, including the UK, will come together in an unprecedented meeting to explore silver as a particularly productive site of exchange and transformation in the early modern world and to think silver outside and across traditional formations.

Silver’s peculiar role in Spanish colonialism on both sides of the Atlantic will be explored in terms of trauma, surface, substance and shimmer, and consequently of exchange, transformation and material potential, in order to breach the confines within which it is conventionally studied. Rather than simply inert matter of intrinsic value, from which individual objects of formal elegance and financial worth are made, the conference approaches silver in terms of its idiosyncratic material potential, which - arguably even more than gold - made an indelible impact in transforming the early modern world. It engages silver in relation to exploration, extraction, production, development, receptions, aftermaths, and shimmery echoes.

This conference is cutting-edge in bringing issues of materiality, capitalism and coloniality together to interrogate them historically in relation to aesthetic and affective issues. It is designed to engage philosophical with historical insights in productive tension.

World-leading scholars who will give papers include Jane Mangan, Tom Cummings, Marlen Bidwell-Steiner, Tim Ingold, Michele Feder-Nadoff and Jason Moore. Each year the British Academy Publications and Conferences Committee looks for the most outstanding proposals which will translate into pivotal events; Helen's was one of just six selected in this highly competitive round.