Translated Objects

The Olov Janse Case

in Volume 2 (2014): Issue 1 (Jul 2014)

This article explores the movements of archaeological and ethnographic objects and museum collections connected with the Swedish-born archaeologist and ethnographer Olov R. T. Janse (1892–1985). Janse pursued a cosmopolitan career in the years between 1920 and 1960, in and between the national contexts of Sweden, France, Indochina, the Philippines, and the United States, where he found himself in different political contexts such as colonialism, nationalism, and the Cold War. He initiated object exchanges between French and Swedish museums, and he collected archaeological and ethnographic objects from Indochina and the Philippines for museums in Sweden, France, and the United States. The complexity of object movements in the wake of Olov Janse's career suggests that we should think and talk about object mobility in terms of translation rather than simple transmission. In seven sections, each exploring one chapter of Janse's life, we discuss how changes in world politics became entangled with changes in Janse's own position as an archaeologist and ethnographer, affecting the movements of objects and contributing to an active translation of their meaning.