Academic Anthropology and the Museum. Back to the Future by Mary Bouquet

By Mary Bouquet

The museum growth, with its accompanying objectification and politicization of tradition, reveals its counterpart within the becoming curiosity by means of social scientists in fabric tradition, a lot of that is to be present in museums. now not unusually, anthropologists particularly are turning their awareness back to museums, after many years of overlook, in which fieldwork turned the hallmark of recent anthropology - rather a lot in order that the "social" and the "material" parted corporation so appreciably as to supply a type of wisdom hole among old collections and the intellectuals who may have benefitted from engaged on those fabric representations of tradition. additionally it was once forgotten that museums don't simply current the "pastness" of items. loads of what is going on in modern museums is actually approximately making plans the form of the longer term: making tradition materialize contains blending issues from the prior, bearing in mind present visions, and understanding that the scenes developed will form the views of destiny generations. despite the fact that, the (re-)invention of museum anthropology offers a chain of demanding situations for tutorial educating and learn, in addition to for the paintings of cultural creation in modern museums - matters which are explored during this volume.

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Dependence on this interpretation of (pseudo-Boasian culture) produces an essentially inaccurate relation to the world. To erect on this basis the authoritative and unchallengeable voice of the Kwakwaka’wakw, is to be engaged in recycling debates concerning race and nation imported by the tendentious notion of culture. These debates – particularly those concerning language, culture and territory – seamlessly merge with the photological apparatus. While anthropologically this could be regarded as interesting per se, politically, recourse to this discourse obscures the nature of Native Authority and filters a data-base to verify U’mistà’s claims.

This serves to flatter observers, confirms an exotic image of Otherness, and tugs the heart-strings and conscience of the post-colonial liberal. Yet at the same time, on an invisible level (at least to outsiders), it invigorates local politics (often using esoteric knowledge culled from the Boas-Hunt corpus) in combat with the Kwagiulth Museum and surrounding community. While Clifford is sensitive to the possibility of local politics, he fails to understand how U’mistà obscures relations both inside the Kwakwaka’wakw communities and with the Canadian state.

So have all allegiances with commerce and industry been vanquished, leaving culture to its own sphere of being? Has culture gained autonomy from complicity with market laws? Alas, no, that complicity is alive and kicking. When I visited the museum, the rotunda, its adjacent halls and the inner quadrangle were being rigged out for a large reception, replete with bongo-drums and jungle-inspired drinks stalls. Loudspeakers were being tried out, and the floor cleared for dancing. Trolleys piled high with wine bottles were strategically placed, and functionaries with badges declaring ‘Pharmacia-Upjohn’ (the pharmaceutical multinational) were beginning to assemble.

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