Beyond the Written Word

Beyond the Written Word
Activity Date: 
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 to Wednesday, Jun 1, 2016

Beyond the Written Word was a two-day international workshop which sought to tease out and bring forth methodological problems in the study of History using non-traditional sources, by raising questions such as: what makes a primary source? How do we use non-traditional sources to conduct historical research? How can historians use material culture, music, art and other non-traditional sources to work within the discipline of history? What can they learn from other scholars that traditionally work with such sources, and where do they differ from the use in disciplines such as archaeology, art history, musicology, anthropology, etc.?
The workshop included a diverse group of scholars, from graduate students to senior professors, and from places as far afield as Russia, India, Japan, the United States and Trinidad, as well as most of the universities in Israel. Over the course of the workshop we heard a remarkable array of papers on topics ranging from the close reading of a painting from Ethopia, to the historical costume displays of Caribbean carnivals, from a musical analysis belying Parisian musicians' claims to a radical adoption of 'black' Jazz, to a careful examination of the role of manicules in early modern marginalia, and numerous other exciting papers on doing history through images, objects, artifacts, graphs, stories and more. Ultimately, the workshop concluded that all of these materials are crucial to a fuller understanding of history, but also that perhaps fundamental changes in the practicalities of academic disciplines would be needed before such sources could be fully adopted into mainstream research agendas.