Accepted paper:

Conjunctures of knowledge creation in a museum partnership between Uganda and Switzerland.


Thomas Laely (University of Z├╝rich)
Jacqueline Grigo (University of Zurich)

Paper short abstract:

To what extent does research carried out according an approach of reverse anthropology result in 'decolonisation' of knowledge generation? A case study and qualitative analysis of the dynamics of a current research and exhibition collaboration by three African and European Museums.

Paper long abstract:

Since 2015, three museums in Kampala and Mbarara in Uganda, and in Zurich in Switzerland, have undertaken an unusual collaboration: They engage in joint research in Uganda and in Switzerland following an approach of 'reverse anthropology', and co-create exhibitions in dialogue. At the same time questions of present and future functions of ethnographic museums in Europe and in Africa were continually debated, and cooperation has become increasingly important, not least in the light of the discussions on colonial collections and the need and potential forms of restitution and ownership of museum artefacts outside of their areas of origin. Each of the three museums involved are entangled in specific economic and political contexts. Divergent conditions determine each partners' opportunities to promote their own interests, decisions and interpretations within the cooperative project. There is always the risk that historically evolved, internalised and unconscious relations of dominance take effect. The collaborative activities have to be assessed in a context in which globalisation - worldwide movements of ideas, persons and objects - technically facilitates communication and brings about greater connection, but, simultaneously, often creates also disruption and fragmentation, experiences of being left behind, of missing matches and of friction. This paper provides insights into the dynamics of the collaboration process between the three museums. It addresses the challenges of collaborating at an equal footing striven for in a transcontinental project framed by structural inequalities: What can, what should this look like, and is it possible to integrate all points of view and interests?

panel Anth02
Hierarchies of knowledge production in academic collaborations between Africa and Europe [Panel of the Association for the Anthropology of Social Change and Development - APAD]