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About the lecture
Anthropology was in part born in the museum. Today the colonial legacies contained within ethnographic collections, as well as the questions about the politics of cultural representation, continue to inflect and impact the discipline, even as it has largely removed itself from the space of the museum. Today, museums are crucial sites in the negotiation of colonial histories, and in the contemporary imagination of a globalized civil society. Objects, and collections, continue to be important sites for the negotiation of identities and for working out forms of restitution and reparation. In the wake of increased calls to decolonize both museums and the discipline of anthropology, what is the future of museum anthropology? Drawing on my own work in Vanuatu and New Zealand, as curator of the UCL Ethnography Collections, and in imagining the role of objects and collections in our new campus at UCL East, I explore the enduring questions around cultural representation, inequality, and colonial legacies. Do digital technologies have the power to redeem colonial regimes of ownership or do they simply continue colonial knowledge systems? What can young people in contemporary London learn from Ethnographic collections? and what is the future of these collections in the wake of radical claims for restitution and repatriation?
About the speaker
Haidy Geismar is Professor of Anthropology at UCL. She is also the curator of the Ethnography Collections, co-directs the Digital Anthropology Programme, and is also Faculty Vice Dean (Strategic Projects) developing Culture Lab: a new set of research and teaching activities focused on media, heritage and collections to be part of UCL’s new campus in the Olympic Park in East London. With fieldwork experience in Vanuatu and New Zealand dating back to 2000, her research focuses on museums and collections as sites of knowledge and value production, and she has written on a wide range of topics including the art market, postcolonial museologies, the production of indigenous intellectual and cultural property, the history of ethnographic collections, the epistemology of digital processes in diverse cultural contexts, and the social resonance of historical photographic collections in present day communities. Recent books include Moving Images: John Layard, Fieldwork and Photography in Malakula since 1914 (2010, Hawaii University Press, winner of the 2012 John Collier Prize for Still Photography from the Society for Visual Anthropology), The Routledge Cultural Property Reader (with Jane Anderson, 2017), and Museum Object Lessons for the Digital Age (2018, University College London Press). She is an active curator, working with museums including the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the East West Gallery, Honolulu and is part of Te Maru o Hinemihi, a group of experts representing the interests of the Maori meeting house Hinemihi, part of a national trust property in Clandon Park. She is also Chair of the Royal Anthropological Institute Photography Committee, and is one of the founding editors of a new open access series, Anthropology and Photography, and is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Cultural Property, as well as sitting on the editorial board of the Journal of Material Culture, and the Science Museum Group Journal.
Inaugural Lecture Series 2019/20
This lecture is part of the 2019/20 series for UCL's Faculty of Arts & Humanities and Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences. The series provides an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of our professors who are undertaking research and scholarship of international significance, and offers an insight into the strength and vitality of the arts, humanities and social sciences at UCL.
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