Call for Abstracts – Reading Reuse : Image Recycling in Egypt and Beyond (deadline : February, 15th 2023)


Atelier de recherche

Le mercredi 15 février 2023 (heure du Caire), IFAO 

Reading reuse. Image recycling in Egypt and beyond
Call for Abstracts – Deadline February 15th, 2023

Vera Elizabeth Allen, Axelle Brémont & Simon Connor

Langue : anglais.

The Ifao is organizing a workshop on the concept of reuse of decorated artifacts (entire monuments or wall reliefs, pieces of furniture, statues, figurines, painted or incised pots, items of personal or mobiliary adornment, etc.) in archaeological or architectural settings.

Our aim is to contribute to the understanding of the creation and use of image-bearing objects in societies throughout time and across borders: how and why they may change in form and function, and what it means to study and interpret such “biographical objects.” Shape, size, material and decoration are just a few of the elements that play an important role in the perception and possible reuse of artifacts, that prove to be versatile, always shifting in their apparent passiveness on the basis of our necessities. As such, objects live several lives that are worthy of being explored, the succession of which build up a ‘biography’ over time (Kopytoff 1986, Henare 2006). Their later uses are not necessarily the ones that were intended for them by their producers and patrons; moreover, people and objects constantly influence each other, as theorized by Gell (1998), Freedberg (1989), Bredekamp (2017).

The workshop, held in Cairo, will largely center upon the Egyptian context and material corpus, nevertheless the scope is resolutely interdisciplinary and cross-cultural. Case studies will anchor our reflections to concrete practices, and serve to build a common methodological, interpretative and theoretical framework, accessible to a diversified body of specialists.

It is in the academic interest to bring together scholars from various areas and periods, through a comparative approach, which is not limited to the study of past societies but also benefits from the insights of cultural anthropology. It is our intention to place this scientific gathering at the crossroads of archaeology, anthropology and art history, and we cherish dialogues drawing from a variety of approaches.

The questions we wish to explore:


  • What are the clues that allow us to pinpoint reuse, whether it is traces on the surface of objects or in the surrounding context?
  • How can we be certain of the number of times reuse practices took place for one and the same object?
  • Are discarding or damaging practices to be considered as a form of reuse? For example, does the firing of an object/image necessarily equate its destruction? Does gathering decorated objects in a “cachette” or deposit imply their death, or is it a way of disposing of them without destroying them (Kaurin et al. 2015)?


  • Does the act of reuse target the object itself regardless of its iconographic content, the object because it is an image carrier, or the represented entity itself? Is it the material or the symbolic value attached to the object/image/monument and to its origin, that led to its choice? Would the object have been reused had it not borne decoration?
  • Can an object witness change in its function without this implying an alteration in its decoration, and vice-versa? For example (but not limited to) the case of reuse happening in a different cultural context.
  • Is the image necessarily meaningful, or even decorative? Is it necessarily still meant to be seen and to mean something? Does the image add value to the object? Is it because of the image that an object is reused? Or does reuse happen in spite of there being decoration (e.g. Bouchery 2018)?
  • Is it possible to frame circumstances where an image was added during the phase of reuse? Are there cases where we can ascertain that the image was completed over time? How did this affect the meaning of the image/object?


  • How to interpret individual reuse(s)? Beyond the possibly anecdotal aspect, do we see the emergence of patterns within and across societies (for example, in the kind of objects targeted by reuse, the type of gestures involved, or in the intended goal)? What does this tell us about human behaviour?
  • How useful are categories of reuse such as repair, renovation, recycling; spoliabricolage (Lévi-Strauss 1962), “récupération”, re-functionalisation… ?
  • Are we able to discern if the objects were reused for purely pragmatic reasons (cost, commodity of using ready-made materials…) and, if so, when can we exclude it? In other words, when did people choose or actively seek specific objects/images to be reused, with or without the same function, and regardless of purely economic factors?
  • What brought people to dispose of objects rather than reusing them? What do we keep, and what do we throw away? Does the image play a role in this choice? Why do we throw away decorated objects, when they could theoretically still be used?
  • What are the reasons behind the choice of reusing a specific object/image? What made it attractive (its appearance, its -changing- meaning, perhaps also other sensory qualities; e.g. Peruzzi 2016)? Can neurosciences, psychology, or other disciplines contribute to this question?

All types of reuse are within the scope of this conference, but we wish to concentrate on the reuse of image-bearing artifacts. While the discard of artifacts is included in the concept of reuse, we will not tackle the practices of mutilation or destruction of images, since iconoclastic acts have been the focus of recently organized conferences. Similarly, the shifting of objects outside the realm of functional use (such as the re-display in museums) is not our main concern.


October 31st to November 2nd, Cairo (Egypt)

Ideally, we would like to organize a couple of preliminary virtual meetings, before the actual conference “in the flesh” at the Ifao. This would allow us to discuss together some of the subjects or themes that we would like to explore.

The Ifao will provide meals and coffee breaks for speakers. Kindly note that transportation and accommodation costs cannot be afforded by the institute.

Kindly send your abstract (max 400 words) for February 15th, 2023 to the following address:

The organizers

Vera Elizabeth Allen, Axelle Brémont & Simon Connor

Selective bibliography

BREDEKAMP H., Image acts. A systematic approach to visual agency, De Gruyter, 2018.

BOUCHERY P., “Donner un statut à l’objet. De quelques transferts fonctionnels dans l’Himalaya oriental (Inde)”, in Pascale BALLET et al., De la Gaule à l’Orient méditerranéen. Fonctions et statuts des mobiliers archéologiques dans leur contexte, PUR/IFAO, 2018.

FREEDBERG D., The Power of Images. Studies in the history and theory of response, University of Chicago Press, 1989.

HENARE A. et al., Thinking Through Things. Theorising Artefacts ethnographically, Routledge, 2006.

KAURIN J. et al., Décrire, analyser, interpréter les pratiques de dépôt à l’âge du Fer, Bibracte, 2015.

KOPYTOFF I., “The cultural biography of things: commoditization as process”, in Arjun APPADURAI (ed.), The Social Life of Things. Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge University Press, 1986.

LEVI-STRAUSS C., La Pensée sauvage, Plon, 1962.

PERUZZI B., “Eggs in a drinking cup: Unexpected uses of a Greek shape in Central Apulian funerary contexts”, in Thomas H. CARPENTER et al., The consumers’ choice. Uses of Greek figure-decorated pottery, Archaeological Institute of America, 2016.

Citer ce billet
apam (2023, 24 janvier). Call for Abstracts – Reading Reuse : Image Recycling in Egypt and Beyond (deadline : February, 15th 2023). APAMi. Consulté le 25 juin 2024, à l’adresse

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