About the DCNtR Debate Series
With “The Gender of Ethnographic Collection”, the DCNtR blog “Decentering Collections: Networking towards Relationality” is starting a new blog format – the DCNtR Debate. DCNtR Debate No. 1 is curated by Carl Deussen (Cologne) and Mary Mbewe (Cape Town). DCNtR-Debates will focus on controversial and debatable aspects of the debates on the decolonisation of museums […]

Artistic Interventions in the Historical Remembering of Cape Slavery, c.1800s.
Traces of Violence from Dismembered Archives In recent years, there has been an outpouring of critical scholarship focused on dissecting colonial museums and archives, specifically in relation to the difficulties of retrieving the voices of black indigenous enslaved women in ethnographic collections. Frequently, historians note that traditional archival material is incomplete and written primarily by […]

Collecting on Women in Gabon during the Colonial Period:
The Case of the Akure Metal Necklaces
Ethnographic collections are seldom analyzed in terms of gender, yet this prism of analysis allows for a renewed consideration of collections that have often been viewed almost exclusively in masculine terms. By focusing on a corpus of metal necklaces, often referred to as torque[1] in the inventories, this paper sheds light on a particular aspect […]

From the Cave Man to Craftsmanship; a gendered conversation:
The case of ethnographic displays in Zambian Museums
Zambia, like most African countries in Southern Africa, was under British colonial rule for 74 years, during which time the British promoted and imposed their way of seeing the world.[1] Museums as public forums were one of the platforms through which the colonialists peddled this imposition.[2] The histories of ethnographic collections bear the brunt of […]

Female Collectors in colonial and postcolonial North and Central America
Ethnographic collections from the 19th and early 20th centuries were evidently almost exclusively made by men. But what about women? Were they not involved, or were they just not explicitly mentioned in the inventories? In fact, women created their own collections. However, the inventories do not necessarily reflect their names, even less their specific roles. […]

The ambivalence of gender:
The collector, ethnographer and colonial women’s movement activist, Antonie Brandeis
Several museums in Germany and the USA hold collections of material culture and photography from Micronesia, gathered by Antonie Thawka Brandeis née Ruete (1868–1945) during her stay on the Marshall Islands in the years 1898–1904.[1] She accompanied her husband, Eugen Brandeis, who served as imperial governor of the Marshall Islands for two terms from 1898–1906. […]

Gendered Objects – Gendered Collecting:
How Colonial Missionary Masculinity Has Structured Ethnographic Collecting
Missionaries were prolific collectors of ethnographic objects for Western museums. Yet the characteristics of missionaries’ collecting and knowledge are rarely given sufficient scrutiny. My aim is to demonstrate why examining missions and their characteristic masculinities is important for understanding colonial ethnographic collecting. These masculinities inscribed themselves into collecting and collections. Why masculinities? Because the religiously […]

Domesticity and the Practice of Anthropology:
Cara David’s ‘Ethnographic’ Collections from the Funafuti Coral Reef Boring Expedition of the Royal Society, 1897
Histories of ‘ethnographic’ collecting often focus on the transactional relationship between collector and subject, ignoring gender and how it shapes knowledge-making projects. In June 1897, Cara (Caroline) David accompanied her husband Tannatt William Edgeworth David, Professor of geology at the University of Sydney, on the second of three ambitious geological expeditions to the atoll of […]