Accepted Paper:

The Point is Moot: Disciplinary Debates in an Age of Decolonization  
Ruth Phillips (Carleton University)

Paper short abstract:

Art and materiality have traditionally been the separate provinces of art history and anthropology, two disciplines that share a long history of mutuality and difference. Like sparring spouses they are unable to live either with or without each other, and their differences have proved resistant to reconciliation through interdisciplinarity projects such as visual studies and visual anthropology. Art historians continue to privilege aesthetic quality, and anthropologists their concern with social reproduction. Yet, I argue here, despite the liveliness of such debates the point must be considered moot-- “open to argument, debatable; uncertain, doubtful; unable to be firmly resolved,” as the dictionary puts it. From my vantage point in Canada, a settler society currently directing unprecedented energies to institutional projects of decolonization, a third term, Indigenous knowledge, is displacing disciplinary differences. Not definable as a discipline, this emerging formation exerts pressure on Western knowledge formations through a distinctive set of positionalities. Holistic rather than interdisciplinary, collectivist rather than individualist, oriented by place and land and by relational rather than linear time, Indigenous knowledge practitioners counter key liberal strategies of inclusion and the ontological turn, seeking to transform Western institutions under the banner of decolonization. To illustrate contemporary tensions, their difficulties and their productive potentials, I examine Anishinaabe: Art and Power, a recent exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum conceptualized by two Anishinaabe curators. I ask how it both integrated and resisted disciplinary knowledges and whether its indigenized approach to representation moves toward a genuine paradigm shift.
Panel Plenary1
Opening and Plenary