CfP: Invitation for young researchers: “Everything but Reading … Praxeologies of Book Use” (Hannover, 16-18 September 2020)

Our network member Ute Schneider has asked us to share this CfP with our followers and readers.

Conference: Schloss Herrenhausen, Hannover, 16-18 September 2020, sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation

Concept and organisation: Prof. Dr. Ursula Rautenberg (Buchwissenschaft, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg) and Prof. Dr. Ute Schneider (Buchwissenschaft, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz)

Six young researchers (PhD students and postdocs, up to 5 years after the doctorate) are being sought whose research is located in the above-mentioned contexts. In order to promote networking between young and established researchers, they will have the opportunity to present their topics and to discuss them in depth in a subsequent detailed discussion. 16 renowned scientists from the USA, China, Great Britain, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany have already confirmed their participation in the interdisciplinary conference. Conference languages are German and English.

In case of an invitation, the Volkswagen Foundation will cover the travel and accommodation costs for participation and catering during the three days of the conference.

Conference concept

The primary functions of the book as a medium of communication include the storage and transmission of information that is ‘read’, linguistic and pictorial signs that are decoded. The conference ‘Everything but Reading,’ on the other hand, focuses on the secondary practices of ‘using books as something other than books.’ As long as there have been textual media, books as artifacts have been designed and produced, praised and purchased, given away, collected and displayed, burned and worshipped as representations of ideas and subject matter. They serve as objects of bibliophile desire, means of identity construction and for cultural distinction. The book-as-object is building material for diverse social practices and symbolic-communicative acts on the basis of a collective or individual ascription of meaning (that is, the book’s secondary functions).

The aim of the conference is to shed light, at least to some degree, on the extensive field of symbolic book-related actions based on particular socially accepted valuations and practices within the network of ascriptions of significance and symbolic capital, material qualities and purchase price, and intangible value. While the “materiality of communication” has been a catch phrase for decades in various research contexts, especially in literature and cultural studies, this conference will focus on approaches from communication studies and the study of book history and publication.

The topic will be discussed in three sections in historical perspective, but also with reference to the present day: The book’s symbolic capital, the individualization of the copy (collecting, displaying and dedicating), and the book and lifestyle. While the centuries-long tradition of book practices and value attributions did not fundamentally change during the technology-based transition from manuscript to print around 1450, digital textual media and “e-books” represent a stiff test for traditional value functionalities and book practices. The transition from the handwritten to printed book copy hardly affected the body of the book – the book in codex form. Disruptive innovations and complex technology, on the other hand, are producing new incorporeal forms of the medium and fundamentally changing the media specificity of the ‘old’ book.

We particularly welcome contributions (in German or English) that consider the issues listed below in the focus of the digital transformations of the book’s symbolic capital: What symbolic values are attributed to the book as a medium in specific ways of use and in what practices is this expressed?

  • Which social practices are established in dealing with the book and are changing in the age of digital ‘book media’?
  • Which spaces, times and processes determine the use of books, even under the conditions of digital transformation?
  • How are traditional values and traditional book use transformed and visible in the digital space?
  • To what extent is the use of books an expression of the individual or a milieu-
  • specific lifestyle? How do digital book media take up and implement these attributions?
  • What transformations are currently in flux and what might the symbolic capital of the digital book look like in the future?

Submission of applications

The organisers ask for a concise abstract of the current or completed research project and a short CV to Prof. Dr. Ursula Rautenberg ( and to Prof. Dr. Ute Schneider ( by 30 May 2020. A decision on the acceptance of contributions will be taken by 30 June 2020 at the latest.

Erlangen / Mainz, 24. April 2020


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