Call for Papers

The Outsiders

3rd Annual Berkeley/Stanford Symposium at SFMOMA, San Francisco, California

Symposium: April 13th 2019, San Francisco, California

Organizers: University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Keynote Speaker: Professor Charlene Villaseñor Black, Professor of Art History University of California, Los Angeles

Submissions Due: January 11, 2019

Traditionally, the concept of “outsider,” “folk,” or “self-taught” art has sought to avail those art objects and their makers which emerged from outside the established boundaries of art’s historical and museological institutions. Though a crisis of identification continues to trouble the production, exhibition, and historicization of “outsider” art, the term sustains increasing relevance amid contemporary debates involving questions and accusations of (im)propriety. This symposium seeks papers that address not only our current moment but a wide range of cultures and time periods that utilize the analytic of “outsider” as a label that both defines and distorts art history’s disciplinary boundaries. What limits might be set, if any, in attempting to define the concept of the “outsider” and its shifting language and history?

In mapping the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, we situate not only persons and objects but also institutions—their languages, materials, and temporalities notwithstanding—through which the “outsiders” fell “outside”: what might “outsiders” teach us about the taught and the un-taught, the visible and the invisible? What alternatives exist to models of education and museum exhibition? How might writings about art confront methods of valuation and canonization (let alone complete repudiation)? And how does art history continue to redefine exclusion in and of marginalized communities and disciplines constituted by, for instance, markers of race, gender, sexuality, and ability? These questions and more provide the foundation for reconsidering art’s vast chronological and cultural boundaries and the objects, individuals, and events which seemingly lie outside them.

Potential topics include but are not limited to: “Self-taught” and “outsider” artists; the ethics of historiography; “minor” histories of the overlooked and understudied; authorship and anonymity; “discovery” and artistic revival; objecthood and material culture; the archive; spirituality and enchantment; subaltern bodies; aesthetics of (dis)ability; craft and/as art; race and ethnicity; queer socialities; (alternative) arts education; communes, collectives, and self-marginalization; subcultural expression; non-visual arts, etc.

The Outsiders seeks contributions from emerging voices from within and outside of academic art history. We welcome proposals to present short talks, interviews, workshops, space-specific performance work, or gallery talks in dialogue with SFMOMA’s collection and exhibitions. Traditional academic conference presentations will be showcased alongside more experimental contributions. Applicants should be either current graduate students (in any field) or emerging young voices from the wider community of visual culture including artists, designers, writers, and museum professionals.

Please submit:

  • A 300 word abstract including a description of format
  • A participant CV (for collaborative work please include CVs for all participants)
  • A description of any necessary support and/or technical needs beyond a standard microphone

All materials can be submitted online at or via email to Jennie Yoon at yoonjen (at) stanford (dot) edu. Materials must be submitted no later than January 11, 2019.