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Why Looking at Objects Matters

An Argument from the Aesthetic Philosophy of Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten

Adam Bencard

Within museum studies, there has been a recent interest in engaging with objects and their material effects as something other than vehicles for human cultural meaning. This article contributes to this interest by offering a philosophical argument for the value of close sensory engagement with physical things, an argument found in the works of the eighteenth-century German philosopher Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714–1762), who is famous for fathering the modern philosophical discourse on aesthetics. Baumgarten outlines what he terms sensate thinking, defined as an analogue to rational thinking, and insists that this form of thinking can be analyzed and sharpened according to its own rules. I discuss how Baumgarten’s aesthetics might be useful for how the curator approaches objects in exhibitions and for understanding how visitors’ sensory engagement with the objects can be important beyond the deciphering of historical narratives and conceptual meanings.

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Facing a Toxic Object

Nuclear Waste Management and its Challenges for Nature-Culture-Relationships

Christiane Schürkmann

Toxic Objects as Consequences of Having Been Modern Modern industrial societies have produced chemicals, substances, or materials that serve humans’ everyday life (on a micro level) as well as their economic growth and political power (on a

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Obligations to Objects

Tangled Histories and Changing Contexts of the Burnett River Rock Engravings

Brit Asmussen, Lester Michael Hill, Sean Ulm, and Chantal Knowles

the Queensland Ethnography (QE) collection and given QE numbers, used for Queensland archaeological collections acquired under nonscientific or nonresearch circumstances. These objects were among the first major collections of Aboriginal archaeological

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Rafael Guendelman Hales

repatriation of such artifacts to their place of origin, the lack of political will on the British side means that these Iraqi requests have remained unaddressed. The project “Objects Removed for Study” stems from questioning the current relevance of these

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Objects of Dispute

Planning, Discourse, and State Power in Post-War France

Edward Welch

liberalism in French politics, one reinforced by an economic downturn provoked by the global oil crisis of 1973. The article considers how the material forms and environments created by spatial planning became constituted discursively as contested objects in

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Integrating Research and Collections Management

The Ho‘omaka Hou Research Initiative at the Bishop Museum

Mara A. Mulrooney, Charmaine Wong, Kelley Esh, Scott Belluomini, and Mark D. McCoy

established by Dr. Kenneth P. Emory, who recognized the need to differentiate between ethnographic objects and those from archaeological contexts, which are accompanied by crucial data, such as detailed field notes, excavation plans, maps, and photographs

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Translated Objects

The Olov Janse Case

Johan Hegardt and Anna Källén

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.

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Objects as Archives of a Disrupted Past

The Lengnangulong Sacred Stone from Vanuatu in France, Revisited

Hugo DeBlock

result, are now kept in museums around the world (e.g., O'Hanlon and Welsch 2000 ). Ethnologists and early anthropologists ventured out into “the field” for brief intervals, collecting “facts”—and objects—much in the sense that a butterfly collector

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Clones as Epistemic Objects

Conceptual Processes of the Configuration of Knowledge

Stefan Halft

The creation of life has always spurred literary and cinematic productivity. Due to scientific progress in the fields of microbiology and genetics, countless novels and films today reflect the idea of human cloning more than other ideas. While the clone is often seen as the epitome of the posthuman, contemporary texts and films tend to modify the concept and (re)humanize the clone. It can be said that fictional literature and films play a pivotal role in the construction, modification, and circulation of concepts. Based on a cognitive linguistic concept of concept, the clone will be analyzed as an epistemic object. Focusing on conceptual processes of the configuration of knowledge, this article will show how the process of conceptualization works in literary texts and films and describe the techniques by which categories and concepts are constantly modified. Thus, it will be argued that literature and film play an active part in shaping a society's stock of knowledge.

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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.