An Outsider’s Take on (some of) the Current Debates Surrounding the Humboldt Forum
Last fall, when the editors of this blog asked me to join their discussions about the Humboldt Forum, I declined. They explained that they wanted to broaden the debate by bringing in outside views. They thought I would be a good candidate, given my past work on the history of German ethnology and ethnographic museums. […]
What is a devolution?
The circulation of remnants and demonstrations of trust and recognition of indigenous peoples in Brazil
Reading the contents in this blog (the ones I could read, since I don’t speak German), it struck me that, while a lot of debates in museums have been organized in terms of repatriation, in Brazil I have often heard a different term: devolution or return. So when I received an invitation to contribute to […]
Why has the ethnographic museum run out of steam?
Please allow me to begin with a Latourian digression to frame what I want to say about the current debates over ethnographic museums. “What has become of critique,” Bruno Latour asked almost fifteen years ago, “when an editorial in the New York Times contains the following quote? Most scientists believe that [global] warming is caused […]
Parzinger’s misconceptions and misrepresentations of the restitution of African artefacts
“The restitution of those cultural objects which our museums and collections, directly or indirectly, possess thanks to the colonial system and are now being demanded, must also not be postponed with cheap arguments and tricks.” Gert v. Paczensky and Herbert Ganslmayr, Nofretete will nach Hause. In an interview dated February 2018, Dr Herrmann Parzinger, repeating […]
The Poisoned Museum
Recevoir est reçu The Edda/ M. Mauss 1 In an article in the 25 January issue of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the President of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Hermann Parzinger, took up Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion: artefacts that came to Europe in the colonial context should be exhibited in the site of their origin. In the […]
Photographs and colonial history in the museum
In Britain colonial history has, uncharacteristically, been headline news recently. This is not merely a post-Brexit vote sensitivity (well what is our history?), although this might be a deeply buried part of the narrative. There are growing concerns about the visual conditions and public engagement with Britain’s colonial past. First were the demands from post-colonial […]
The Beauty of the Transient
A Plea for More ‘Concept’, Experiment and Fragility in the Museum
The times of rupture which ethnological museums are currently undergoing raise a number of issues at the same time: pleas for conceptual renewal as well as resistance against it; the question of how to deal with the colonial provenance of collections, which is followed by the debates about restitution. Many of these questions would have […]
More Ethnology – or rather Social and Cultural Anthropology?
– in the Humboldt Forum! Time for an Intervention
Time is moving on: in 2019, the Humboldt Forum, currently the “biggest and financially most ambitious project of German federal cultural policy”, will open in the heart of Germany’s capital. In the view of the organizers, it will/should become a site of encounter, in which “cultures engage in dialog as equals”, in order to “acknowledge […]
Basket, Earthenware Jug, Cross
The baskets rebelled: “‘Humans deal with us very poorly. When they no longer need us, they throw us away. Animals step all over us, the pigs and dogs. Then they throw us in the fire and burn us. I propose that we hide from the humans.’ […] They emptied themselves and left the house. After […]
Collateral Damage. A Polemic
“Europe is a master of criticism. If it doesn’t criticize, it disappears. What it fears most is nonexistence. I tried to criticize it, too, because it demanded this from me, but I wasn’t able. At most, I could repeat its self-criticism.” These sentences by the Japanese author Yoko Tawada occurred to me when I read […]