#13   RACE (Spring 2022)

Representation and Possession in the French Colonial Empire

This special issue consolidates new research on the visual culture of race in France and its colonies during the long eighteenth century. It is oriented around two key terms, “representation” and “possession,” and their many resonances­­—artistic, political, legal, and relational. Although firmly rooted in a specific set of interrelated eighteenth-century visual and political practices, this topic is one whose urgency remains vivid today. We invite proposals for essays to explore how art objects articulated, contested, and disseminated changing notions of racial identity and citizenship in France and its global networks.

Over the past several years, scholars have examined the role of pictorial representation in shaping ideas of race, identity, indigeneity, and slavery in the context of the eighteenth-century British empire. However, as Anne Lafont observes in her recent book (L’Art et la race, 2019), the French case has received relatively less sustained attention. There are many reasons for this deficit, some stemming from the formation of the archive itself, and others from contemporary politics in France. Indeed, since the late eighteenth century, race and racial difference have sat uneasily within celebratory accounts of the French Enlightenment and its “cosmopolitanism.” Bringing together new scholarship that builds upon recent precedents, we aim to address a deliberately expansive geographical notion of French visual culture, one that includes the Caribbean, New France, Canada, and the Indian Ocean in addition to sites within the “metropole” such as Paris and Nantes. Fostering a dialogue between art history, indigenous studies, and critical race theory, this special issue will provide a crucial scholarly platform for research that can inform pedagogy, curatorial practice, and future scholarship.

Issue Editors
Susannah Blair, Columbia University
Stephanie O’Rourke, University of St Andrews 

Submissions for issue #13 RACE are now closed.


#14   SILVER (Fall 2022)

Silver has held an illustrious place within early modern decorative arts as well as histories of empire, slavery, and colonialism. From cutlery and serving dishes to liturgical goods and medals, silver graced the collections of rulers and churches. During the eighteenth century, silver’s mutability lent itself well to the rococo’s penchant for metamorphosis. Highly regarded for its pliability, sheen, and virtuosity, silver was also esteemed for its inherent value. Silver’s capacity for transformation—from raw material into objects of beauty or currency—made it a valuable medium for artists, a tool for global expansion, and income for rebuilding state treasuries. As a currency standard in the eighteenth century, silver did not share the same vacillations as paper money, but it was subject to the fluctuation of quantities available in quarries, such as Zacatecas or Potosí, since its mining production could directly impact the consumption of goods for which it was traded.

In addition, silver’s mineralogical value became a source of appreciation so that silver, in its raw form, was placed in natural history cabinets. Complementing developments in the natural sciences, including geology and mineralogy, as they became more specialized, silver invited close scrutiny by artists, natural historians, and collectors. Silver’s discovery in quarries sparked the development of silversmithing sites, terrestrial exploration, and mining activities, including novel processes for extraction and the growth of enslaved labor and human trafficking. This intermingling of silver’s multifaceted roles—silver as a source of artistry, revenue, curiosity, and subjugation—positions it directly within the complexities of the eighteenth-century global world.

We welcome proposals for contributions that examine silver from diverse perspectives—metallurgical, artistic, imperial, and financial—and within a wide range of geographical locales. By situating silver within the context of geopolitics, economics, diplomacy, newly specialized sciences, and art, we aim to offer a broad analysis of silver’s vital roles in scientific, economic, and artistic circles across the eighteenth-century world.

Issue Editors
Agnieszka Anna Ficek, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Tara Zanardi, Hunter College, City University of New York

Submissions for issue #14 SILVER are now closed.


#15   CITIES (Spring 2023)

Art and architectural histories have traditionally approached the city in terms of the monuments and structures of its built environment and the distribution of its spaces. But the city is also, after all, its people: people who occupied and inhabited buildings, shared spaces and resources, and invested in or were inspired by ideas, labor, and beliefs. How did the city make room for that sharing? How did it inhibit it? Institutional structures—those of religion, politics, the economy, of ‘police’ in the broadest early-modern sense—played an essential part in fostering conditions in which social life occurred. How exactly did that fostering happen in the eighteenth century, and what were its intended and unintended consequences? At the same time, urban dwellers, whether elite or subaltern, continually use, transform, exploit, or otherwise make a city their own; the social forms an essential context for such appropriations. How were the limits and possibilities of social life in the eighteenth-century city defined, regulated, and sustained? In what ways did different constituencies represent those limits and possibilities, and discuss and debate them? How were they made visible, made audible, made legible? And how did different categories of labor shape and support a city’s social life?

We invite proposals that engage with the questions asked above, directly addressing relations between built forms and social bodies. These are some themes that are, we feel, raised by the topic: boundaries (walls, ditches) and the exclusion or protection of the faiths, nations, and trades they helped shape; bridges and the connections they cemented between neighborhoods, markets, spaces of leisure, etc.; infrastructure (roads, water, lighting, refuse collection) and the support it gave to the lived experience of the city; beauty and the collective aspiration to care and conservation, and also to better worlds that it proposed. We welcome contributions that consider actual spaces and communities and also ones that reflect critically on projects, both unrealized and utopian. We are open to essays that take as their objects of study built form, the representation of built form and the city generally, and urban material culture (e.g. guidebooks, street maps, shoes, carriages, walking sticks).

Issue Editors
Katie Scott, Courtauld Institute of Art
Richard Wittman, University of California, Santa Barbara

Proposals for issue #15 Cities are now being accepted. Deadline for proposals: March 15, 2022.

To submit a proposal, send an abstract (250 words) and brief biography to the following three addresses: [email protected]; [email protected]; and [email protected]. Articles should not exceed 6000 words (including footnotes) and will be due by September 1, 2022. For further details on submission and Journal18 house style, see Information for Authors.


Further future issues will be advertised soon.