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The Cosmohermeneutics of Migration Encounters at the Immigration Museum, Melbourne

Philipp Schorch

Drawing on a narrative study of Australian visitors to the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, this article explores the hermeneutic complexities of migration encounters through the meaning-making processes of museum visitors. Throughout this process of interpretive negotiations, museum exhibitions and visitor biographies become intertwined through narratives of migration. The empirical evidence emphasizes that the humanization of migration through stories and faces renders possible an understanding, explanation, and critique of sociopolitical contexts through the experience of human beings. Migration emerges as a practice that transforms cosmopolitanism from an abstract, normative ideal into a lived, interpreted reality. This article, then, is devoted to the cosmohermeneutics of migration encounters, that is, to an experienced and thus “actually existing cosmopolitanism” (Malcomson 1998) that entangles self and other through visitors' interpretive dialectics of reflexivity and empathy. The article suggests a cosmopolitan museum practice that opens interpretive spaces for shifting subjectivities and multiple identifications across differences and commonalities.

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Dubai's Museum Types

A Structural Analytic

John Biln and Mohamed El Amrousi

Dubai is often characterized as a city of artificiality and repackaged public spaces—a city without a past. The old historic Dubai has essentially disappeared, lost in the shadows of iconic resort projects and popular shopping malls. This article asks the following question: how do Dubai's museums function in relation to an urban field for the most part bereft of historical fabric, and in which the history that is made visible within the public realm is largely fictional or highly sanitized? We argue that to make sense of the ways history is represented and circulated in Dubai's public spaces, the traditional category of “museum” should be extended to include both large-scale history-themed malls and small heritage houses. Taken altogether, Dubai's museums and museum-like institutions constitute a conceptually complete and closed system that manages to “resolve” the apparent paradox of an urban context characterized by absence and historical loss, in which, paradoxically, expressions of historical fullness are everywhere.

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Editorial

Kylie Message and Sandra H. Dudley

Whether or not museums can live up to the ideal that they provide a public forum has become something of a moot point, if not a stereotype of the past three decades. Museum studies researchers, scholars, and professionals have been proactive in their attempts to understand whether museums can or do provide a physical manifestation of what has been generally considered an aspirational concept or model of practice. Some have been directly inspired by philosophers and sociologists such as Jürgen Habermas (1991), Nancy Fraser (1990), and Craig Calhoun (1992), as well as the critical cultural studies “movements” that have circulated around interdisciplinary journals such as Theory, Culture and Society (http://tcs.sagepub.com/) and Public Culture (http://www.publicculture.org/). Others have drawn on current and emerging directions in disciplines such as anthropology, history, and geography to explore the public sphere concept from the perspective of transnational and postcolonial concerns, and have been influenced by theorists including Seyla Benhabib (1992), Arjun Appadurai (1996), Dipesh Chakrabarty (2000), and Aihwa Ong (2006). Ultimately, of course, much of the museum-focused work—within which we include both the theoretical and the applied (for example, exhibition-based)—has been interdisciplinary. Like the wider critical debates on which it draws and to which it contributes, museum scholarship has been aff ected by ongoing global change, and has reflected—and, in many national contexts, influenced—public policy shifts before and since the new millennium.

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Exhibit Reviews

Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp, Ciraj Rassool, Bruce Levy, Vera Mey, Jeanette Atkinson, Elizabeth Rankin, Ying Ying Lai, Linda Young, Christian Mesia Montenegro, and Conal McCarthy

Fetish Modernity (Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm)

Remaking an Ethnographic Museum in Cologne (The New Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum—Cultures of the World)

The George W. Bush Presidential Center (Dallas, Texas)

Moving on Asia: Towards a New Art Network 2004–2013 (Gallery LOOP, Seoul, and City Gallery Wellington)

L'Art Nouveau: La Révolution Décorative and Tamara de Lempicka (La Reine de l'Art Déco, Pinacothèque de Paris)

Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, Glyptothek, and Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Tangible Splendor: The Chi Chang Yuan Collection of Lacquer with Mother-of-Pearl Inlay (National Museum of History, Taipei)

First Peoples (Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum Linda Young)

The National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History, and the National Museum of Peruvian Culture, Lima

David Bowie Is (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin)

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From the Margins to the Center

The São Paulo Biennial, the Biennale of Sydney, and the Istanbul Biennial

Rebecca Coates

This article explores the continuing evolution of biennials, particularly those outside the traditional European/North American “centers”. From their early beginnings in Venice in 1895, biennials have become one of the most vital and visible sites for the production, distribution, and discussion of contemporary art. A “third wave” of biennials in the 1980s was part of a growing focus on a global “south”, and played a key role in redefining notions of center and periphery in the global contemporary art world. This article shows how the São Paulo, Sydney, and Istanbul biennials were part of these trends toward the “biennialization” of contemporary art, mass spectatorship, the interweaving of the global and the local, and the rise of a generation of nomadic curators and artists whose work exemplified these themes. It argues that the most recent editions of these biennials may reflect a further shift in the evolution of the biennial model: a possible fourth wave, where the biennial provides an international platform for local politics.

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Hybridity--Objects as Contact Zones

A Critical Analysis of Objects in the West African Collections at the Manchester Museum

Emma K. Poulter

Bringing together a retheorization of the “contact zone” (Pratt 1992; Clifford 1997) and the idea of hybridity, this article uses these concepts as analytic tools to raise questions about the meaning and materiality of objects in the collections at the Manchester Museum. Through a series of case studies I illustrate how connections spanning centuries between West Africa and the northwest of England are embodied in museum collections. By focusing on the materiality of museum objects it is possible to unravel these connections, as well as the fractions and fissures they point to.

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Inhabited Exhibitions

Per Bjorn Rekdal

The conference excursion has become an essential ingredient for any international conference, and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) general conference held in Rio de Janiero in August 2013 was no exception. The theme of the conference was Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change. Excursions to favelas (slum areas) were among several events offered. Visiting the Favela Museum with museum professionals from across the world provoked quite unexpected memories, as well as many questions about the creative uses of heritage as part of social change. The well-chosen Favela Museum certainly stirred unsettling memories for me.

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Museum Mediators in Europe

Connecting Learning in a Field of Experience

Alice Semedo

Learning networks do not arise from nothing. They are born out of personal connections, exchanged conversations, constructed spaces, and shared visions. Other broader contexts (e.g., the theoretical contexts or funding policies available within a globalized economy) are also part of this landscape. The Museum Mediators in Europe course is one of such learning networks that came to be in 2013 with the aim of representing institutional and professional needs of mediation professionals in the European countries involved in this project: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Denmark, and Estonia. The project argues that a clearly defined set of best practices in museum education is called for and that leadership/mentoring programs for museum mediators should be utilized to foster professional learning communities within museums.

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Museums and Mental Health

Amy Jane Barnes, Chia-Li Chen, Chun-Hung Lin, Shih-Ku Lin, Tak-Cheung Lau, Joanna Besley, Adele Chynoweth, Savina Sirik, Pechet Men, Kunthy Seng, Patrick Allegaert, Catharine Coleborne, and Colin Gale

For this edition of Museum Worlds: Advances in Research, we have asked a group of museum practitioners to respond to a thought-provoking article about a Taiwanese project that explored the particular needs of visitors diagnosed with schizophrenia. Allegaert, Besley, Coleborne, Chynoweth, Gale, and Sirik have used Chen et al.’s article as a jumping off point from which to write on the broader topic of mental health provision in museums’ engagement programs from their own international perspectives. Th e forum was convened by Sandra Dudley and curated by Amy Jane Barnes.

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Museums, Collecting, Agency

A Symposium

Tanya Zoe Robinson

On 1–2 April 2014, the Institute of Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, Australia (UWS), hosted Museums, Collecting, Agency: A Symposium, in partnership with the Museums and Heritage Studies Programme, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (VUW). Held at the Australian Museum (AM) in Sydney, the event brought together an outstanding lineup of speakers from Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, the United States, and Britain to explore questions of agency in relation to ethnographic museum collections and museum-like practices of collecting, with an emphasis on the histories and legacies of colonialism. In doing so, the speakers and audience (mainly academics, museum professionals, and museum studies students from Australia and the Pacific) ably brought these issues into the present through varied histories and practice-based case studies that ensured a very “living” approach to this growing research area.