#18   CRAFT (Fall 2024)

When, where, and why does craft matter?

Craft, by definition, is any activity involving manual skill. But in the modern western world, the term typically implies specific kinds of activities that produce specific kinds of objects: things like baskets, lace, and lacquerware. In a culture that has historically privileged rationality and innovation, craft’s commitment to tradition, reliance on haptic knowledge, and association with marginalized subjects have rendered it the minor counterpart to more “serious” forms of material production. As a subsidiary to art and industry, craft has often occupied a circumscribed role in accounts of modern art and modernity’s origins in the eighteenth century. Recently, however, craft—as a more capacious category of material production—has become a crucial term in efforts to expand and diversify the study of eighteenth-century art.

This special issue builds on recent investigations while considering how craft’s ancillary role within the Anglo-European tradition has limited its capacity to transform the field. Drawing inspiration from the absence of an art/craft divide in many cultures, we are interested in exploring craft’s potential to radically reframe, reconceptualize, and globalize the history of art. By investigating craft, we also aim to shed new light on related questions of value, skill, and creativity in the making of different kinds of objects. We are inspired by recent scholarship that has asked, for example, how the repetitive nature of American schoolgirl samplers challenges celebrations of the individual maker, or how the meaningfully protracted time of wampum-making diverges from industry’s strict calculations of time and labor. Looking at the issue from a different angle, what would be the implications of discussing academic painting and sculpture as forms of craft?

By bringing together a range of studies that critically engage with handwork, we aim to highlight both the distinctive and shared concerns of craft in different making traditions. We welcome proposals for full-length articles as well as shorter pieces that explore new methods of studying craft. Taking advantage of Journal18’s online platform, the latter could take the form of photo essays, videos, interviews, or other formats that grapple with the complexities of documenting, understanding, and communicating craft-based knowledge.

Issue Editors
Jennifer Y. Chuong, Harvard University
Sarah Grandin, Clark Art Institute

Proposals for issue #18 Craft are now closed. 

#19 AFRICA: BEYOND BORDERS (Spring 2025)

Since the dawn of decolonization in 1950s and 1960s Africa, Africanist scholars have emphasized Africa’s connections to the rest of the world before the period of European colonialism. While such views have gained widespread currency among Africanists and some Africanist-adjacent scholars and journals, Africa, apart from the continent’s Mediterranean coast, is hardly discussed beyond these circles. Even when medieval and early modern (art)history and material culture studies claim to be global, Africa often remains on the periphery of the discussion of long-distance trade, artistic innovations, and material cultural exchange.

This special issue of Journal18 invites contributions that examine the confluence of the global, interregional, and local in shaping African arts, material culture, and sartorial practices. It seeks to shift standard accounts of globalization by decentering European empire-building and the colonial archive. The long eighteenth century saw the expansion of African polities and local networks of exchange flourished. Internal trade and migration were just as important as oceanic movements. Traders, merchants, and migrants constantly moved between different societies, actively facilitating the intermingling of diverse cultural forms across great distances. Artisans, both free and enslaved, were also highly mobile during this period. Archipelagic Africa, especially its port cities and mercantile polities, played a significant role in shaping the commodity networks of the entire world.

Among the questions that this issue seeks to address are: Can the discussions of African trade objects help us historicize intra-and inter-continental trade and cultural exchanges? How did African royals, travelers, enslaved, and free individuals engage with the foreign and the faraway? What can African artifacts tell us about religious, aesthetic, and cultural transformations in Africa and its internal or transregional diasporas before the colonial period? What can historic African art collecting tell us about African identities and transcultural negotiations? How did Africa inspire global artistic imaginations during this dynamic period?

We welcome proposals for contributions on related topics, including African architectural forms and notions of space; the visualization of race in pre-colonial Africa; cultures of making and their regional and transregional connections; the reception and reimagining associated with transregional or transcultural reception; African writing and graphic systems; the material cultures of enslaved/free Africans and their experiences of migration and diaspora; and the politics of eighteenth-century heritage conservation.

Issue Editors
Prita Meier, New York University
Hermann von Hesse, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Finbarr Barry Flood, New York University

Proposals for issue #19 Africa are now closed.

#20   CLEAN (Fall 2025)

This issue of Journal18 asks: what we might see if we regard the eighteenth century as possessed by a cleaning frenzy? Cleaning, as a process of removing excess matter to get to the essential or the original, engaged an eighteenth-century obsession with origins and etiology. This type of removal took place in a time of formulations and nebulous debates about race, class, and ethnicity and intersected with attempts to “purify” the urban and rural environment as well as society itself. Cleanliness suggested a particular aesthetic that resonated with the tenets of neoclassicism but also with racialized notions of whiteness, as the opposite of “impure,” non-white races, cultures, and objects. In the increasingly disenchanted worldview of elites, cleaning artworks was also a way to annihilate any living presence connected to these objects, from bugs and microorganisms to ancestral spirits to immanent beliefs.

In eighteenth-century Europe, political, cultural, and religious authorities sought to clean artworks and monuments from anything that “soiled” them, whether that was actual dirt, natural traces of use and time, or (hu)man-made ephemera, immaterial rituals, and ideological beliefs. These actions were symptoms of a power struggle between religious institutions and the state and between different cultures and countries, but also between local populations and an increasingly centralized administration. Even when presented as neutral measures of maintenance, such acts of cleaning often led to conflict. This was the case, for example, in late eighteenth-century Naples, when the German painter Jacob Philip Hackert was accused by local artists of disrespecting a number of Italian paintings he had cleaned. What for one cultural milieu diminished artistic value could be, for another, an integral part of the artwork.

This issue of Journal18 invites essays on acts of and discourses around cleaning in the long eighteenth century, particularly cases that address issues of authority and ownership. Who was entitled to touch, handle, modify, or clean an artwork, relic, building, or monument? What/who was allowed to reside within such buildings and objects, and what/who had to be erased or exterminated? What was the significance of defining the “pure” or “original” state of such artworks? What line of separation did actors draw between cleaning and destruction? Was cleaning gendered, and, if so, how? Who was expected to do the cleaning, and who was allowed to produce dirt? What are the connections between racialized ideologies that led to the devastations of ethnic cleansing and eighteenth-century aesthetics of cleaning and cleanliness?  Is there a way to contrast the “messiness” of the early modern multi-modal “entangled” historiography with the streamlined “cleanliness” of eighteenth-century historical writing?

Issue Editors
Maarten Delbeke, ETH, Zurich
Noémie Etienne, University of Vienna
Nikos Magouliotis, ETH, Zurich

Proposals for issue #20 Clean are now being accepted. Deadline for proposals: October 1, 2024.

To submit a proposal, please send an abstract (250 words) and brief biography to the following addresses: [email protected] and [email protected]. Articles should not exceed 6000 words (including footnotes) and will be due by April 1, 2025. For further details on submission and Journal18 house style, see Information for Authors.


More future issues will be advertised soon.