CMCS-Sponsored Working Groups

The Center currently supports four working groups that serve to bring students and faculty together in an intellectual community beyond the classroom. Working Groups are goal-oriented, thematic and work collaboratively towards things like exhibitions, publications, and speaker series. Groups are open to faculty and graduate students. See below for further information on each group, and  to contact conveners.

Be sure to keep up to date on working group meetings and events by subscribing to our website, and following us on Twitter @UDMatCult and Instagram @udcmcs!

blackness and publicness (current)
Conveners: tiffany barber, department of africana studies and jennifer van horn, department of art history & history

What is public and who decides? How is racial identity formed, communicated, and negotiated through material, visual, and virtual formats? Public performances of blackness and the politics of racial identity are key issues in creative production and destruction, from Kehinde Wiley’s equestrian sculpture in Times Square to Black Lives Matter protestors tagging confederate monuments. The digital dimensions of our everyday existence and the increase in virtual interactions in the wake of COVID-19 beg further consideration regarding how technology and crisis reconfigure the boundaries of public life and identity performance. Under the theme of “Blackness and Publicness,” this 2020-2021 Center for Material Culture Studies working group will investigate these topics and more.

Participants will workshop writings-in-progress and discuss readings that interrogate blackness and publicness form the early modern period to the present. Join us to probe the limits and possibilities of our new virtual realities while considering historic artworks, visual and material artifacts, digital media, and literary works along with historic preservation and museological interpretation. Critical discussion will center around race and representation in the African Diaspora, the Atlantic world, and the hemispheric Americas.

Contact Tiffany Barber ( or Jennifer Van Horn ( for further information.

Material culture pedagogy (current)
Convener: Thomas guiler, Winterthur Museum, garden & library

The Material Culture Pedagogy Working Group brings together faculty, staff, and graduate students across University of Delaware’s campus and affiliated cultural institutions to discuss how to teach material culture to diverse audiences inside and outside the classroom. Through conversations, guest speakers, syllabi exchanges, experimentation, and workshops, this collaborative working group explores ways to teach material culture more inclusively and effectively in the twenty-first century. Specific topics will evolve throughout each academic yea, however, it will prioritize decolonizing syllabi and courses, integrating anti-racist practices into pedagogy, and exploring new ways to use technology and creative solutions to teach material culture in the COVID- 19 age.

Contact Thomas Guiler ( for further information.

Methods in Material Culture graduate student working group (CURRENT)
ConvenerS: Nora Ellen Carleson, DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY AND Jackson Truschel, DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH

The working group is an interdisciplinary organization of graduate students at the University of Delaware focused on sharing material culture methodologies. The group convenes throughout the fall and spring semesters for events on- and off-campus to explore methods both with each other and with community partners. Events include field study, lectures, writing groups, workshops, and more. All graduate students are welcome to attend events.

Contact the working group’s co-chairs, Jackson Truschel ( and Nora Ellen Carleson ( for further information.

ThingStor (current)
Convener: Martin Brückner, Department of English

ThingStor is intended to become an interactive database that will enable students and scholars to recognize and better understand the form and function of material objects referenced in the works of literature and the visual arts. Currently, a team consisting of members from the Department of English, Computer Science, and the University of Delaware Library is building a prototype entitled “American Literary Things” that will illustrate objects ranging from early references to the “Continental Dollar” or the “London Doll” to later ones such as the “Bowie knife” or the “Shirley Temple cup” cited in Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye.

ThingStor working group members will help build this prototype into a first-rate interdisciplinary searchable archive while also gaining skills to help you design your own featured project involving objects significant in the media central to your respective disciplines. More importantly, the ThingStor working group is intended to offer you the opportunity to connect your research on objects beyond the archive to critical scholarship, publishing venues, public engagement projects, and much more.

Contact Martin Brückner ( for further information.

Methods in Material Culture graduate student working group (previously)

The working group is an interdisciplinary organization of graduate students at the University of Delaware focused on sharing material culture methodologies. The group meets month, alternating on- and off-campus events to explore methods both with each other and with community partners. All graduate students are welcome to attend events.

Contact the working group’s co-chairs, Michael Doss ( and Victoria Sunnergren ( for further information.


The Media Old and New working group brings together scholars from an array of disciplines with interests in the materiality of media. From the phonograph to the photograph; the typewriter to the tweet: this group considers medium specificity as a crucial issue productively viewed through the lens of material culture studies. We are especially interested in how contemporary media may be historicized and how historical media can be understood in light of contemporary developments. Our group also considers which forms of pedagogy can engage media not only as conceptual forms but as material ones and how the “hands-on” dimensions of media studies can be best practiced in research and in the classroom.

2018-2019 Lecture Program:

Lecture by Professor Catherine Gallagher (Berkeley)
“Why We Tell It Like It Wasn’t: The Facts about Historical Counterfactuals”
Wednesday, November 7th 5:30pm
Kirkbride 204

Lecture by Professor Martin Jay (Berkeley)
“Sublime Historical Experience, Real Presence, and Photography”
Thursday, November 8th 5:30pm
Kirkbride 204

CMCS Media Old and New Working Group: Seminar with Whitney Trettien (UPenn)
On the History of the Digital Book, Title TBA
Tuesday, November 13th 5:00pm
Memorial 110

CMCS Media Old and New Working Group: Lecture by Nathan Hensley (Georgetown)
“Action Without Agents: Emily Bronte After the Anthropocene”
Thursday, April 4th at 5:00pm
Location TBA

CMCS Media Old and New Working Group: Lecture by Paul Messier (Yale)
Title TBD
April 11, 5:30pm
Location TBA

Contact Sarah Wasserman at or Jason Hill at for further information.

Object Fight Club: The Methods in Material Culture Graduate Student Working Group (previously)
Conveners: MIchael Doss, Department of English
victoria sunnergren, Department of art history

The Methods in Material Culture working group will be facilitated by and for grad students to encourage communication across departments, and exchange ideas about research methods. The primary goal of the group is two-fold: first, to build a sense of community around material culture studies here at UD, and second, to equip attendees with a toolbox of research methods drawn from across the disciplines.  We want to celebrate UD’s leadership in material culture studies and support the success of our collective research efforts.
Past Events/Meetings:

Contact Michael Doss at or Victoria Sunnergren at for further information.

Theory, Method, and Pedagogy (previously)
Convener: Julian Yates, Department of English

The working group in Theory / Method / Pedagogy serves as the venue for a multi-disciplinary conversation about the objects of material culture studies; how they are configured and approached by different disciplines; how they orient our various curricular offerings (undergraduate and graduate level); and what resources they offer us for collaborative research and teaching both in the classroom and the field. In Fall 2016, the group will embark on a series of shared readings and discussion of questions of method and pedagogy.

Contact Julian Yates at for further information.

Ese’eja (previously)
Conveners: Jon Cox, Department of Art and
Monica Dominguez-Torres, Department of Art History

The Ese’Eja working group collaborates with the Ese’Eja community in the Peruvian Amazon–a foraging society known in their own language as “The True People”–in a cultural mapping project that seeks to document their lifestyle, create a community “plan de vida,” and implement educational programs for their schools and surrounding communities. Funded by the National Geographic Genographic Legacy Fund, UD’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center, the Institute for Global Studies and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning, the overall goal of the cultural mapping project is to help community members to strengthen their sense of identity and to raise international awareness about the issues this indigenous society faces nowadays. Members from the UD team–including students and faculty from various disciplines–have traveled to Peru to work alongside Ese’Eja elders to document their knowledge of the land, traditional practices and rituals that are at risk of vanishing. An important outcome of this project is a public exhibition at the University of Delaware campus featuring photos, videos, and objects gathered during these field trips.

Contact Jon Cox at or Monica Dominguez-Torres at for further information.