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The Material, Literary and Visual Cultures of Corruption in Europe, 1500-today

Call for Papers

29-30 May 2024

The conference addresses the material, litrary and visual culture associated with ‘corruption’ (broadly conceived). Relatively little attention has been paid to these dimensions of corrupt practices: to the gifts given as bribes, to the various artistic and cultural forms of public displays of corrupt wealth, and to the literary and visual representations of corruption. Nor has there been much debate about how to curate material bought or created with ‘corrupt’ money and how explain it to modern audiences.


This workshop aims to create an interdisciplinary forum for researchers, seeking to bring together historians of all stripes, literary critics, the heritage sector and others. We aim to discuss the following questions:

  • To what extent did a material culture of corruption (broadly conceived) exist?
  • Were there objects, outputs, sites or spaces usually identified – or more prone to be identified– with corrupt practices?
  • Did those change over time?
  • Did gifting practices trigger unethical behaviour and what gifts counted as bribes?
  • How were ‘corrupt’ objects and sites concealed and disguised as ‘legitimate’?
  • What was the material legacy of corrupt money, in houses, estates, monuments etc?
  • How should such objects and spaces be represented now to the public by heritage organisations?
  • How was corruption represented in art and literature?
  • What artistic genres and literary forms were deployed?
  • What emotions or responses were aroused by them?
  • And how did all these cultural objects, sites and legacies differ in imperial as opposed to domestic settings?
  • What power did such cultural manifestations have on reform movements?


We welcome proposals of ca. 500 words (for 20 minute presentations) concerning these topics, to be submitted, along with a short CV by Monday 11th March at 12.00 GMT. The submissions must be sent to Decisions on the accepted proposals will be made by Monday 1st April at 12.00 GMT. It is hoped that the contributions presented during the workshop might be collected for publication and that the conference will be held in Venice, at Warwick’s palazzo on the Grand Canal, though it is possible that the venue might have to be changed to Warwick University’s campus if Venice proves unviable because of numbers. If held in Venice or Warwick, the cost of meals and refreshment will be covered but delegates will need to pay for travel and accommodation (the latter can be booked by Warwick), and there will be up to five bursaries for PhD students of £150. There will be a registration fee of £50.


Organising Committee: 

Prof Dr Mark J. Knights (University of Warwick)

Dr Ricard Torra-Prat (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)