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Throughout history, people have used material culture to achieve wellness and better themselves according to social and cultural ideals. This panel explores these interactions between people and things and pushes the boundaries of what is traditionally considered material culture. Three case studies will include an incense burner in sixteenth-century Italy, female costume and jewelry in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century China, and houseplants in nineteenth-century America. We will utilize interdisciplinary perspectives by drawing upon art history, anthropology, material culture, science, philosophy, and the history of medicine to illustrate how individuals used material culture to navigate conceptions of health, beauty, and refinement in three different places and times. Apart from providing insight into three culturally and temporally specific understandings of the mind and body, these case studies reveal gender- and class-based implications. Together, these three topics nurture a discussion on the power between people, material culture, and sensory engagement to inspire and facilitate the mind and body’s cultivation.

January 26, 12–1:30 pm

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Madison Clyburn
“From Perfume to Smoke: The Philosophy of Aroma in an Italian Renaissance Incense Burner”

Weixun Qu
“Purifying Spirit for Long Life: Antiquities in Women’s Decorative Patterns in Qing China”

Natalie De Quarto
“A Refined Air: Status and Health through Domestic Horticulture in Nineteenth-Century America”

A Zoom link will be circulated the morning of the symposium.

Student Research Forum is a series in which BGC students organize a mini-symposium to present their research on a common theme to the community.