CfP: First-person Voice: Patronage and Agency in Women’s Portraits (Event: „Big Berks“ 05/2014); DL: –

Berkshire Conference on Women’s History, Toronto, Canada, May 22-25, 2014, Website

Call for panelists from Kate A. Lingley: I and another colleague are seeking one or two additional presenters for a panel to be proposed to the Berkshires Conference in Toronto in May 2014. A very preliminary panel abstract is below. We would especially like to make this a border-crossing panel, and would be interested in participants who can add other historical periods or cultures to the two already represented here. Our goal is to use the resonances between the cases we present to suggest new approaches to visual culture as an arena for investigating women’s agency in a range of historical periods.

We are a historian and an art historian, and would welcome relevant proposals from any discipline. I would ask interested potential presenters to contact me off-list (

First-person Voice: Patronage and Agency in Women’s Portraits

The exclusion of women’s voices from historical discourse is a chronic problem facing historians of many times and places. Even where women are written about, the conventions of historiography may work to deny them the agency to control their own representations, leaving us to study women’s experience as filtered through the lenses of male interlocutors and patriarchal cultures. From time to time, we find that the women we wish to study struggled with this problem as well. Denied a voice in public forums, or expected to conform to restrictive conventions of female identity, such women sometimes found an outlet in the realm of visual culture, through the medium of the portrait. This panel examines cases from a range of historical cultures in which women used the position of patron to exert control over the ways in which their portraits conveyed their identities. They include aristocratic patrons of Buddhist art in early medieval China; black and white abolitionists in the U.S. of the 1850s; [some third subject]; and [a fourth one if we’re lucky]. Each can be shown to have used her own portrait as a forum to reassert agency over her own representation, sometimes in direct contradiction to the ways others might represent her, or to the pressures of social convention.

Kate A. Lingley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chinese Art History
Department of Art and Art History
University of Hawai’i at M?noa
2535 McCarthy Mall
Honolulu HI 96822
tel: 808.956.8291 fax: 808.956.9043
From: Kate Lingley


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