Global Jars: Asian Containers as Transcultural Enclosures

Few objects are as universal, ubiquitous and multi-functional as a jar. The term ‘jar’ refers to any man-made shape with the capacity to enclose something, and hence jars are part of human experience throughout time and space, regardless of whether they contain matter or a void, food or drink, life-giving medicine or the ashes of the deceased. Yet, as ubiquitous as such containers, storage vessels, urns, and other kinds of jars might be, they may have been studied by archaeologists and anthropologists, but so far remained almost invisible to the eye of the (art) historian. This conference, entitled ‘Global Jars: Asian Containers as Transcultural Enclosures’, aims to make jars of all kinds visible in a variety of spatial contexts.

This conference brings together an interdisciplinary team of scholars in the fields of ceramic studies, history and art history to approach the topic of the jar from multiple perspectives. Contributors are invited to consider jars not only as (household) utensils and evidence of lost or present human civilizations but also as artefacts in their own right, as culturally and aesthetically defined crafted goods and as objects charged with spiritual meanings and ritual significance. They understand jars not only as belonging to a single place, but as global or transcultural artefacts in which different cultures meet and merge. The goal is furthermore to examine jars not only as ceramic containers, but as materializing a boundary between inside and outside, content and environment, exterior worlds and interior enclosures; jars not only as things in the hands of makers, users, and collectors, but, in some cases, as understood to possess human-like agency, animalistic or other-worldly powers themselves.

This conference uses art-historical methods to understand jars as transcultural containers that mediate between inside and outside, Asian and non-Asian, local and global, this-worldly and other-worldly realms. Special attention is given to the relationships between the filling, emptying and re-filling of jars with a variety of contents through time and throughout space and the charging, eliminating and re-charging of these particular objects with different sets of meanings.

Organising Committee

  • Anna Grasskamp (Hong Kong Baptist University, Academy of Visual Arts)
  • John Johnston (Hong Kong Baptist University, Academy of Visual Arts)
  • Anne Gerritsen (University of Warwick & Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society)

Programme Committee

  • Anna Grasskamp (Hong Kong Baptist University, Academy of Visual Arts)
  • John Johnston (Hong Kong Baptist University, Academy of Visual Arts)
  • Anne Gerritsen (University of Warwick & Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society)
  • Sharon Wai-yee Wong (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
  • Borbala Nyiri (independent scholar)