Re-Evaluations. On the ascription of value in social and ritual practices

23 – 25 November 2017, Frankfurt am Main

Many objects and things are made for specific purposes and thus receive an initial or primary practical value in fulfilling those primary aims. Once they are removed from their primary context or fall into desuetude, objects or things can undergo a process of new ascription. This “reascriptive process” is not necessarily accompanied by a respective devaluation. Whereas putting the objects to waste may be the most extreme form of disuse, recycling or secondary sometimes even tertiary use may possibly result in new forms of value, which might constitute a higher, sometimes even a secondary value contrary to the primary one (cf. Michael Thompson 1979 towards his theory of rubbish).

There are many examples of such reevaluations as a result of secondary uses during various social and ritual practices. The ascription of symbolic and sacral value to previously profane objects, for example in the creation of religious relics, provides a case for the reascription of value by ritualising as social practice. In performing rituals – be it healing or harming rituals, purification, oath or divination rituals – objects are transformed into ‘magical materials’ (materia magica) outside of their primarily intended use and everyday context. In both processes, the change from the mundane to the sacral sphere is connected with an actual and striking up-valuation of reused things. Similarly, the staging and reframing of objects in secondary use stresses particular, characteristic traits of things. Whether we deal with the aesthetic staging of antique ceramics in modern art museums or with the pronounced display of family heirlooms in domestic houses, former everyday objects receive new values irrespective of their primary value in order to create identity and legitimation of individuals, of smaller or larger groups.

Ritualising, staging and reframing are exemplar social practices in which not only objects, but also places or acts can receive a redefinition of value – connotating devaluation, reevaluation or upvaluation. We want to address questions such as ‘Why are certain objects deemed fit to serve another purpose beyond the primary one?’ or contrast the primary and secondary contexts of use. Following the cross-disciplinary structure of the Frankfurt Research Training Group, the 2017 conference intends to open various perspectives onto this phenomenon from archaeological and ethnological points of view.

Organising committee
Prof. Dr. Anja Klöckner
Prof. Dr. Dirk Wicke

Goethe-University, Campus Westend
IG-Farben-Haus 1.314


Thursday, 23rd November 2017

04:15 PM Hans Peter Hahn - Welcome

04:30 PM Klöckner & Wicke - Opening

05:00 PM Frédérick Keck - Simulations of disasters in hospitals and museums


Friday, 24th November 2017

09:30 AM Lucy Norris - Urban prototypes: Growing local circular cloth economies

10:00 AM Astrid Lindenlauf - Walls as historic monuments: The changing perception of spolia walls in Classical Athens

10:30 AM Coffee Break

11:00 AM Francesca Meneghetti - Re-Evaluation through miniaturisation? The case of miniature oxhide ingots from Late Bronze Age Cyprus

11:30 AM Gabrielle Kremer - The so-called Altar of the Emperors from Carnuntum

12:00 AM Panel discussion

12:30 AM Lunch break

02:00 PM Thomas Widlok - When secondary is primary: Forager items and infrastructure

2:30 PM Felix Kotzur - Ambivalence of value: Reconsideration of 'Roman' vessels within the so-called barbaricum

03:00 PM Friedemann Neumann - The end of exoticism: Material leeways of current (post-)migratory households

03:30 AM Coffee break

04:00 PM Silke Hahn - Hidden values: Coin hoarding as a social practice in Roman time Germany

04:30 PM Alexander Ahrens - Recycling Egypt? The phenomenon of secondary reuse of Egyptian imports in the Northern Levant during the second millenium BC

05:00 PM Rubina Raja - Re-use of funerary portraiture in Palmyra

05:30PM Panel Discussion


Saturday, 25th November 2017

09:00 AM Andreas Hartmann - Beyond bones: Relics in Greek and Roman tempels

09:30 AM André Luiz R. F. Burmann - Figurine depositions in West African archaeological complexes: Re-evaluations through time and space?

10:00 AM Coffee break

10:30 AM James Whitley - From antiquities to art: Why has Classical Archaeology ignored Marcel Duchamp?

11:00 AM Lanah Haddad - Intramural funeral practices and their impact onto households in Northern Mesoptamia

11:30 AM Panel Discussion

12:00 AM Final Discussion

12:30 PM Farewell

Programme Flyer