CALL FOR PAPERS - Orphaned Objects: Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to the Research of East Asian Objects

21. 12. 2023

Asian Studies journalSeptember 2024

Guest Editors: Nataša Vampelj Suhadolnik and Helena Motoh

The last few decades have brought the topic of researching East Asian collections in Europe and the wider world to the forefront of research and academia. The colonial and postcolonial frameworks of the related collecting practices, the cultural and socio-political settings in which the collectors assembled their collections as well as the history of displaying East Asian objects in museums and other institutions, have been researched both in the political centres of those practices and on their peripheries. In a differently structured approach, the collections of objects themselves also came into the focus of research, exploring their materiality and their “biographies”, adding a novel perspective to the historiography of collections.

In many cases these research approaches also encountered specific challenges. From missing documentation, lost objects and dispersed collections to the possible histories of thefts and confiscations, many obstacles can stand in the way of a thorough and integral reconstruction and exploration of East Asian collections and their histories. One particular issue is very common, and which by its definition goes beyond the research on collections, and this is the occurrence of individual East Asian objects, unrelated to known collections and/or without reconstructible provenance. These “orphaned objects” – a term borrowed from a similar phenomenon in archaeology – are a challenge of a unique kind, not only posing questions about their own unknown histories and biographies, but also challenging the methodological approaches for dealing with singularities, missing information and much more.

The thematic issue will focus on these research challenges. It will further discuss the theoretical and methodological approaches to the treatment and contextualization of orphaned objects within the scope of museology and various approaches to curation, the strategic approach to the analysis, preservation, management and protection of the national cultural heritage of East Asian or non-European origin, as well as good practices that correspond to the challenges of handling, storage, restoration and exhibiting of orphaned objects, highlighting the historical, art-historical, archaeological and anthropological aspects of examining objects without context.

We welcome papers on these and similar topics:

  • “Orphaned objects” in a historical framework;
  • East Asian objects obtained through confiscations, nationalizations, thefts, or gifts;
  • Theoretical and methodological approaches to orphaned objects of East Asian origin;
  • Good practices for handling, restoring, and exhibiting of orphaned objects;
  • East Asian collections and their biographies;
  • Collecting networks;
  • Individual objects in relation to collections and collecting practices.

Submission deadline: Previously unpublished articles are to be submitted online ( by 15 March 2024.

Acceptance for publication is only guaranteed upon the successful completion of the double-blind review process of the full-length article.