Humans and Objects as Accidental Refugees
Arjun Appadurai (New York University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper aims to show that there is an unexplored link between human migrants who seek to enter Europe and objects in museum collections which are can be seen as accidental refugees. The narratives used to engage with these two categories are symmetrically and instructively deficient.
Paper long abstract:
In Europe, there has been little effort to link two kinds of refugees. The first is the human refugees who have become a subject of special concern since 2015. The other is those objects from outside Europe which have ended up in ethnological collections and museums, with little information on how they were acquired, transported and housed in Europe. The juxtaposition of these two categories suggests that they each suffer from deficient narratives and that both kinds of refugees cast light on the nature of legitimate movement, categorization, and display. In view of the current debates in Europe about colonial object collections and about human migrants, it is vital to place these debates in a common framework.