Call for Papers – The Power of Flowers, 1500-1750

Ghent University, 14-16 June 2023


Organizers:
Prof. dr. Jaya Remond
Dr. Catherine Powell-Warren

We are pleased to announce the conference The Power of Flowers, 1500-1750, which will take place at
Ghent University. The conference is positioned at the intersection of various fields; by bringing
international scholars working in a wide range of disciplines, including (but not limited to) history,
art history, history of science, economic history, and religious studies, we aim to investigate how
flowers, and the fruits they produce, represented power in a myriad of ways in the early modern
world.

Flowers and fruits have been mobilized as expressions of power and counter-power since long
before the poet Allen Ginsberg coined the slogan “Flower Power” in 1965 to encourage nonviolent
protest and Hippies in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury area weaved flowers in their hair. In the
newly founded Dutch Republic, the house of Orange-Nassau relied on the orange not only as a
short-hand for its name, but also a signifier of the trading empire it developed; Sultan Süleiman the
Magnificent was known for his taste in gardens and incorporated flowers in his official insignia
(Tughra), a complex work of calligraphy that conveyed the power and legitimacy of his rule. During
the early modern (re)discovery of nature, flowers and their fruits, local and foreign, offered unique
promises for profit while their pictorial representations promoted their commercial potential and
could also stand as artistic objects.

The conference will unfold as a series of panels. We would like to explore the following broad
themes addressing the function of flowers (including the flowering process, culminating in fruit) as
tools of political, religious, or commercial power, as well as their role in art-making, science, and the
construction of gender between c. 1500-1750:

  • The culture, commercialization, and global trade of flowers;
  • The function of cultivation and depiction of flowers (e.g. as part of political or epistemic strategies);
  • The use of flowers as artefacts across media, techniques, and artistic genres and terrains;
  • Flowers as instruments of gender construction;
  • Flowers of as tools of global and local knowledge transfer and appropriation, particularly between colonial and indigenous epistemic systems;
  • Flowers as instruments of religious propaganda/pedagogyThis list is non-exhaustive. Papers that canvas these themes from a non-Western perspective and/or adopt an interdisciplinary perspective are particularly welcome.

Submissions
Please submit your abstract of no more than 500 words detailing your proposal together with a short
CV (no more than 3 pages) by 31 December 2022. Submissions should be addressed to the
organizers at jaya.remond@ugent.be and catherine.powellwarren@ugent.be . Candidates will be
notified with respect to the final selection of papers for the conference by 24 February 2023. A
limited number of bursaries may be available to assist graduate students with the costs of
participation.

Please do not hesitate to contact the organizers should you have any questions.

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