Um-Wertungen. Zur Neuzuschreibung von Werten in sozialer und ritueller Praxis

23 – 25 November 2017, Frankfurt am Main - Germany

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

The conference will take place at Goethe-University, Franfurt am Main, Campus Westend.Conference language: English