The previous issue of AJEC had ‘Ethnological Approaches to Cultural Heritages’ as its theme. As that issue was being produced, the Société Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore (SIEF) held its 9th Congress, entitled ‘Transcending European Heritages: Liberating the Ethnological Imagination’, at the University of Ulster during the week 16–20 June, 2008 (see Fenske 2008 for details). This offered an opportunity to explore our theme further, and therefore the plenary speakers at that congress, representing a broad spectrum of backgrounds and approaches, nationalities and intellectual biographies, were invited to submit their texts for the present issue.
Ethnologists' Uses of the Authentic
This article deals with the often problematic connection between European and ethnological world images. After a short retrospective on the ethnological heritage, it elaborates current social and political problems and determines the ethnological position in these discourses. Finally, it recommends the imagination of an 'ethnology of the present', which increasingly focuses its lens on the European margins, across boundaries, and on movements: ethnology as a 'social ethnography' of the culturally vagrant, ambivalent and fluid.
Knowledge, Agency and European Ethnology
Drawing examples from ethnic and popular music as well as from folk art, the paper explores the multivalence of expressive forms as local and European, even global aesthetic resources, whose territorial or ethno-national connection is - due to the power of aesthetic affect - but one among many possibilities of identification. It is argued first that the resource dimension of cultural expression has been furthered by the documentation and classification techniques of ethnological and folkloristic knowledge production, which in turn also facilitated circulation in multiple context. Second, the paper encourages that scholarship expand from recognising a political identification and instrumentalisation of aesthetic resources to understanding the economic appropriation of the production and consumption of such resources.
All scholarly fields feed on rhetoric of praise and criticism, mostly self-praise and self-criticism. Ethnology and folklore studies are not exceptions in this, regardless of whether they constitute a single field or two separate but related ones. This essay discusses questions concerning ethnological practice and object formation, cultural theory and the theory of tradition (or the lack thereof), cultural transmission, cultural representation, and the ethics and politics of cultural ownership and repatriation. It draws on general observations as well as on work in progress. The main concern is with a discursive move: from tradition to heritage, from the ethnography of repetition and replication to cultural relativist descriptions and prescriptions of identity construction and cultural policy, from ethnography as explanation to ethnography as representation and presentation. In addition, the essay seeks to delineate other underlying tenets that appear to constitute our traditions and heritages - both as strengths and as long-term constraints and biases. Where is ethnology headed in its quest to transcend theories and practices? Less theory and more practice? More theory on practice? Or more practice on theory?
Tradition, Ecology and the Public Role of Ethnology
The folk, who have been exorcised from contemporary academic concern, are now replaced with the populace. Simultaneously, places as ecological loci of meaning and social relations have been discarded in favour of globalised spaces. Arguably, the contemporary obsession with proving the inauthenticity of tradition is itself an essentialising discourse. This obsession has helped destroy places and their ecological relationships. European ethnology originated in the Enlightenment pursuit of good governance and social improvement, which rendered it an instrument of political control - putting the folk in their place. By critically reconstructing the public role of ethnology, we can redirect the ethnological searchlight. Should not the responsible ethnologist, rather than colluding in evictions of the folk from their place, cultivate a respectfully critical understanding of social, economic, political and ecological contexts, working with the folk reflexively, to help reclaim their place.
Engaging Anthropological Legacies toward Cosmo-optimistic Futures?
Sharon Macdonald, Henrietta Lidchi and Margareta von Oswald
How to deal with the legacies of colonial and other problematic pasts is a challenge shared by most museums of ethnography and ethnology. In this introduction to the following special section on the same topic, the section editors provide an overview and analysis of the burdens and potentials of the past in such museums. They set out different strategies that have been devised by ethnographic museums, identifying and assessing the most promising approaches. In doing so, they are especially concerned to consider the cosmopolitan potential of ethnographic museums and how this might be best realized. This entails explaining how the articles that they have brought together can collectively go beyond state-of-the-art approaches to provide new insight not only into the difficulties but also into the possibilities for redeploying ethnographic collections and formats toward more convivial and cosmo-optimistic futures.
Making Object Biographies
Margareta von Oswald and Verena Rodatus
In Germany, the new cultural center Humboldt Forum (to open in 2019) has become a major site of debate. It will include the contested collections of both the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art, which contributed to the negotiation of the role of colonial legacies and their reverberances on contemporary Germany. We took those contestations as a point of departure for the exhibition Object Biographies (2015), part of the program Humboldt Lab Dahlem designed to experiment with innovative displays for the Humboldt Forum. Here we reexamine our research collaboration with the Beninese art historian Romuald Tchibozo that was part of the exhibition. His call for the “decolonization of research” was the central guideline in our museum practice aiming for cosmo-optimistic futures. We argue that focusing on processes and questions engaged by the exhibition project can transform contested museum spaces to enable negotiations on ownership, representation, and memory politics.
Imparting Ethno-aesthetic Knowledge in John Hawkesworth’s Report on Cook’s First Voyage to the South Pacific (1768–1771)
Artistic practices in ethnological knowledge transfer can be found in the wellknown account of James Cook’s first voyage (1768–1771) by John Hawkesworth (Account of the Voyages […] in the Southern Hemisphere, 1773), which shows that such travel accounts are not only vehicles of knowledge transfer but also means of knowledge (re)construction, and at times this process of remolding knowledge extends to a rewriting that includes elements of fiction. Hence, the article will draw on the material assembled by Cook and Joseph Banks in their Endeavour Journals to identify in Hawkesworth’s examples of (ethno-aesthetic) knowledge construction and “invention.” A comparison of the diff erent types of texts is rewarding not least because Hawkesworth’s account strove to present the new knowledge to a broader audience. An identification of Hawkesworth’s departures from his sources facilitates the reading of the act of knowledge transfer as a process of knowledge transformation.
This article discusses a range of pragmatic issues associated with curating intangible cultural heritage, including collection, preservation, interpretation, presentation and representation. It uses as a case study work undertaken with Lough Neagh eel fishermen in preparation for and at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2007, setting this in a much wider curatorial context.
As I settle down to put together this issue, it occurs to me that the development of AJEC in its various phases displays an uncanny correspondence with my personal professional trajectory so far. Its inception and first volume happened during my postdoctoral fellowship when I was happy to place one of my first (coauthored) academic articles in its inaugural issue. The remainder of AJEC’s first approximate decade coincides with my time as a lecturer. At the time I took up my first chair, the format of AJEC changed, eventually turning it, for a while, into a Yearbook rather than a journal. And in the year I moved to my second chair, I was invited to take on the editorship of AJEC, which would now be published by Berghahn and returning to the format of two issues per year. This correspondence raises a curious question: What significant turning point for the journal will correspond with my own as I am becoming an emeritus professor?