Accepted paper:

Taking chances without ignoring problems: ethnographic collections as testimonies of past relationships and as a starting point for producing shared future knowledge


Michael Kraus (University of Göttingen)
Andrea Scholz (Ethnological Museum Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

The paper presents two independently developed projects that will be linked in the future, where different partners work together on ethnographic objects from the South American lowlands. The common work provides a starting point for knowledge acquisition and new networks.

Paper long abstract:

Debates about ethnographic collections often focus on a museum's colonial heritage. As a result of heated discussions, scholars sometimes ignore the large number of objects which came into a museum legally. Existing acquisition documentation provides evidence not only of colonial violence and an outdated, dichotomous worldview, but also of peaceful meetings and multifaceted exchanges. It offers varied information about cultural practices, and at the same time reveals much about the scientific approaches and personalities of protagonists on both sides. However, the objects are not only witnesses of historical contacts and scientific approaches, they also open up opportunities for new networks in the present. Museum collections lead to new forms of cooperation, in which representatives of a collection's community of origin take the role of research partners. Transregionally shared methods of knowledge production can enable all parties to explore past and present relationships, as well as negotiate their interests and ideas for future contact. In our presentation, we firstly cover some historical facts about different collections from the South American lowlands which are now located at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. We then present two projects which were developed with indigenous partners from Venezuela and Colombia independently of each other. Finally, we outline our approaches on how this exchange will continue to link existing projects with one another. Thus, the collections are a starting point for knowledge acquisition, dialogue and new networks.

panel P089
Re-visioning material anthropological legacies for cosmo-optimal futures