Book Reviews

in Museum Worlds
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Isabelle Williams University of Canterbury, UK

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Florence Esson University of Wellington, New Zealand

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Yunci Cai University of Leicester, UK

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Lee Davidson University of Wellington, New Zealand

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Valentin Gorbachev Ryazan, Russia

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Nathan Jones General George Patton Museum, USA

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Kirsty Kernohan Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK

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Heidi Weber Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

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Xiaomei Zhao Fudan University, China

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Xuelei Li National Museum of China, China

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Women Mean Business: Colonial Businesswomen in New Zealand. Catherine Bishop. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2019.

Imagining Decolonisation Rebecca Kiddle with Bianca Elkington, Moana Jackson, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Mike Ross, Jennie Smeaton, and Amanda Thomas, eds. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2020.

Cosmopolitan Ambassadors: International Exhibitions, Cultural Diplomacy and the Polycentral Museum Lee Davidson and Leticia Pérez Castellanos. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press, 2019.

Museums, International Exhibitions and China's Cultural Diplomacy Linda Da Kong. London: Routledge, 2021.

Curating (Post-)Socialist Environments Philipp Schorch and Daniel Habit. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2021.

A Cultural Arsenal for Democracy: The World War II Work of US Museums Clarissa J. Ceglio. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2022.

Mobile Museums: Collections in Circulation Felix Driver, Mark Nesbitt, and Caroline Cornish, eds. London: UCL Press, 2021.

Écrire la muséologie: Méthodes de recherche, rédaction, communication [Writing museology, Research methods, writing, communication] François Mairesse and Fabien Van Geert. Paris: Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle Ed, 2021.

Cultural Renewal in Cambodia: Academic Activism in the Neoliberal Era Philippe Peycam. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

Animal Classification in Central China: From the late Neolithic to the early Bronze Age Ningning Dong. Oxford: BAR Publishing, 2021.

Women Mean Business: Colonial Businesswomen in New Zealand. Catherine Bishop. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2019.

Traditional New Zealand history has painted women as colonial helpmeets, whose primary role was as wife and mother, but Catherine Bishop's Women Mean Business demonstrates that this was not always the case (11). This is Australia-based Bishop's second book on businesswomen, and her first on New Zealand. Assisted by a New Zealand History Trust Award, Bishop used a variety of sources from archives, museums, and libraries, and across 13 chapters demonstrates the ways in which women were active in early New Zealand colonial businesses. Women with “higher respectability” were more limited in their ability to engage in business (67), while less respectable women, through necessity, ran hotels and owned pubs. Although lower-class women had more business opportunities, they also faced more risk (196). Beyond necessity, women entered business for various reasons, such as Mary Taylor, who wrote in letters how much she enjoyed working and making money (134). Taylor challenges the traditional view of women as unpaid helpers and reveals an ambitious woman who enjoyed earning an income, investing, and making a profit.

Bishop's approach reveals the variety found in colonial businesses and allows the reader opportunity to understand that colonial era businesswomen were not a homogenous group. While the book acknowledges variances in business around each New Zealand region, the content has an urban bias and explores businesswomen in towns and cities. Bishop has done an impressive amount of research for this book. In chapter 1, she explained how she approached primary sources with the mantra “don't assume it's a man.” This is because businesswomen would appear in directories by their initials only or as unnamed partners in their husbands’ businesses (20). It was through finding further evidence in different sources such as letters, wills, and legal documents that Bishop could reveal these businesswomen's stories. However, Bishop is very aware the study falls short on examples of Indigenous Māori women in business; this is in part because of the absence of recorded evidence record, so there is scope for more research in this area (23).

Pictures and newspaper articles are placed throughout the book; these sources allow the women who ran these businesses to come to life. In addition to primary research, Bishops draws on the wealth of secondary sources to create an accurate and fair account of businesswomen in colonial New Zealand. For example, in chapter 13, Bishop discusses how historical businesswomen deserve to be acknowledged, but as feminist historiography points out, this does not mean they were all admirable characters (298). Bishop references the work of Bettina Bradbury, Barbara Brookes, Raewyn Dalziel, and Katie Pickles. Drawing from feminist and New Zealand historians, Bishop expands the current feminist historiography and carves out a place for businesswomen to feature in New Zealand history. New Zealand history has been blinkered by the idea of women as colonial helpmeets. Bishop's businesswomen do not fit this stereotype. Telling stories of women who operate outside the private sphere is clearly Bishop's historical focus. Her previous book, Minding Her Own Business (2015), had a similar goal but focused on women in colonial-era Sydney. Bishop has also authored several articles on businesswomen in Australia and New Zealand.

If you have an interest in the role of women in history, or in colonial business history, you will enjoy this book. Bishop challenges previous historical approaches that placed colonial era New Zealand women firmly in the home and offers fresh insight into the life histories of business-minded women. This book makes a unique contribution to both feminist and business history. Women Mean Business also demonstrates to young historians such as me the importance of doing primary research, appreciating the challenges presented by archival gaps, and not making any assumptions.

Isabelle Williams

University of Canterbury

Imagining Decolonisation Rebecca Kiddle with Bianca Elkington, Moana Jackson, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Mike Ross, Jennie Smeaton, and Amanda Thomas, eds. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2020.

“Colonization” and “decolonization” are still far from household names in Aotearoa New Zealand. For many they are remote and abstract, while for others they carry a painful and complex baggage, remaining for the most part interred within layers of dense academic language and rhetoric. Imagining Decolonisation seeks to excavate these terms, their nuances, and their application in everyday life, clearing space around them so that they can be properly looked at in context. Aimed at those “who want to know how we got here, and what we can do next,” the book takes the reader on a te ao Māori–centered journey through colonization and decolonization (8). While the book ultimately suggests that some type of decolonized society is possible, it also acknowledges several steep challenges to surmount. Vital and encouraging for those starting their journey thinking about colonization and decolonization, the book also holds value for those of us who are already deep into this work, providing a concise, accessible, and strongly New Zealand–focused anchor for the fundamentals of these ideas.

Slender and unassuming, Imagining Decolonisation is composed of five short chapters and edited by Rebecca Kiddle. Published by Bridget Williams Books in 2020 as part of its BWB Texts series, the book was sparked by the Imagining Decolonised Cities project, which the book's contributors were involved in. Jennie Smeaton writes that in preparation for the project, the organizers came up against a lack of accessible resources that could explain colonization and decolonization to both adults and young people. Imagining Decolonisation is the attempt of the contributors to fill this gap. In its clarity, generosity, and balanced approach to the complexity of the subject, I believe the book is highly successful at doing so.

Staying true to this underpinning need for an accessible resource, Imagining Decolonisation is organized in a way that progressively builds understanding. The first two chapters deftly and sensitively define the key terms of colonization and decolonization, giving an overview of local, global, and personal histories of these concepts. The third and fourth chapters deal largely with the relationship between non-Māori New Zealanders and colonization, drawing attention to the negative effects of ongoing colonization on society as a whole, before giving a glancing overview of how non-Māori can participate in decolonization. The final chapter weaves together the threads of each preceding chapter, building an ethical framework for decolonization and beyond that draws deeply on mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and what the activist and lawyer Moana Jackson names “the stories of the land” (133).

While these chapters can be read individually, the book is strongest when read as a whole, particularly for the first-time reader. This is due not only to the successive layering of ideas described above but also to the way the chapters lead into each other. In Imagining Decolonisation, the authors keep up a conversation with each other across the pages. They acknowledge, borrow, and foreshadow each other's ideas, contrasting sharply with the isolated and tightly demarcated chapters that often make up edited academic texts. An example of this is the late Moana Jackson's deceptively simple concept of “two houses” as a metaphor for colonization, which is introduced by Mike Ross in the first chapter. It is then woven throughout the book as a frame of reference for complex ideas. This conscious cross-pollination can be read as part of Imagining Decolonisation's project of decolonization, demonstrating an open, collaborative approach to meeting shared goals. In her recent review of the book, Anahera Gildea (2022) refers wonderfully to this dialogue as a smooth passing of the rākau, bringing to mind a Māori game in which wooden sticks are tossed and caught in rhythm.

Turning now to evaluating the contents of Imagining Decolonisation, the rākau begins with Mike Ross and Ocean Mercier as they define “colonization” and “decolonization.” Both are contested terms, and the book deals with this in a way that opens up several interesting ideas and pathways for museum studies. Mercier suggests that much of what is sought by the term decolonization can be encompassed by the Māori genealogical concept of whakapapa (relatedness or genealogy), while Jackson argues for “an ethic of restoration” (81, 149). These concepts, which decenter the colonizer, are allowed to sit alongside the other terms used, working toward an ecosystem of decolonizing concepts that could be applied in different contexts. This evolving ecosystem has ongoing and vitally important implications for those of us who are or will be involved in heritage work, which is by its nature deeply entwined with the process of colonization.

Of particular interest to me as a current student of museum studies was Mercier's discussion in the chapter “How Does Decolonisation ‘Unhappen,’” in which she describes how seemingly decolonial acts can be covertly colonizing (67–79). While the new museology has engineered a shift toward sharing power and working with source communities, this shift is not always done with integrity. I found the quote included from Virgilio Enriquez particularly relevant: “[Supporting] indigenous causes within the colonial structure … may become the popular political thing to do so the culture is further exploited” (72). In many cases, efforts to decolonize museum spaces are political window dressing, which do little to penetrate deeper into the ingrained structure. In specific reference to museums, Puawai Cairns's reflections on decolonization are highly relevant, advocating for decolonization that is built from the needs of the community, “putting the people at the center, and not the interests of the colonial machine” (74). Mercier's discussion is an important warning to museum professionals, asking us to keep on guard for a decolonizing agenda that sits back and expects others, largely Indigenous staff and communities, to bear the load while the institution benefits politically.

On a personal level, I was fascinated by Rebecca Kiddle's discussion of how ongoing colonization is harmful for non-Māori. I was certain, at that time, that the harms of colonization were carried only by Māori, and the feelings of Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent) had little or no place in the discussion. While I still believe this is true, particularly in decisions regarding Māori self-determination, I had not considered that the brutality and corrosiveness of colonization might have directly resulted in a trauma in my own family. Reading the chapter, I thought of my ancestors, the earliest of whom arrived in Aotearoa in the 1850s. They came here as part of the influx of settlers that cemented colonial power, ultimately setting the scene for the systemic “demise of Māori control” (26). Those roots make it difficult to inhabit a sense of belonging in New Zealand. In the following chapter, Amanda Thomas encourages this discomfort and suggests that the only way to legitimize one's presence here is “to do the work that flows from being tangata tiriti [people of the Treaty]” from being in this land by the right of the Treaty of Waitangi (117). Gently, empathetically, the authors work together to remind non-Māori New Zealanders of their responsibility and privilege, and to empower us to act. For any non-Māori living in New Zealand, these chapters should be required reading, not just for application in their work and study but for their well-being.

But what does action look like? Thomas's chapter suggests several actions, many of which will not be new or unexpected for the readership, such as aiming to correctly pronounce Māori words. While each suggested action is a clear and impactful way to contribute, particularly for those new to decolonization, I felt there was a missed opportunity to address barriers to structural change, and the role of Pākehā in both creating and removing these. In particular, it made me think about the prevalence of engagement fatigue and burnout suffered by Māori in both institutions and community groups, stemming from the recent political rush to decolonize. There is space here to think about how Pākehā can contribute to more sustainable models for partnerships that are not driven by business or government timelines. This thought is particularly driven by what I have observed in my own workplaces, where there is, too often, a perceived lack of ability to engage in the first place. Thomas says to “always, always” work in conversation with our Māori colleagues, which is its own challenge in institutions with embedded colonial structures (132). As Thomas writes, much of this does not yet have an answer and will require a long-term commitment.

In writing Imagining Decolonisation, the authors set out to create a resource that could explain the fundamentals of concepts to anyone who picked it up, which they have broadly achieved. I believe they have also successfully created an important resource for New Zealanders to understand how our society functions, which has relevance across all fields of work and study. Building on each other, the chapters clear a path through the theory and history of decolonization, anchoring the text with their personal and tribal experiences and developing new frameworks to think about decolonization in an Indigenous-centered way. Though the book does not have a specific focus on museums, I believe it has specific relevance for museum studies and practice through the book's highlighting of how colonization can and does sneak into decolonizing agendas in colonial institutions. For many Pākehā, Imagining Decolonisation will also hold valuable and generous insights into what it means to be the descendant of a colonial legacy. While, by its own admission, it is not the definitive book on decolonization, it is at the very least a definitive introduction.

As I was concluding this review, I saw the sad news of Moana Jackson's passing at the end of March this year and felt grief not only for his whānau and friends but also for the generous, visionary writer whose words and ideas are woven throughout Imagining Decolonisation. Thanks in large part to his innovative and accessible concepts for understanding this work, Imagining Decolonisation will continue to have a deep and lasting impact that will resonate for many years to come. As Jackson writes in the closing chapter, “courage is simply the deep breath you take before a new beginning” (150).

Florence Esson, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington

Reference

Gildea, Andrea. 2022. “Reading Imagining Decolonisation, the Slim Book That Invites Us to Dream Big.” The Spinoff, 27 January. https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/27-01-2022/reading-imagining-decolonisation-the-slim-book-that-invites-us-to-dream-big.

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Cosmopolitan Ambassadors: International Exhibitions, Cultural Diplomacy and the Polycentral Museum Lee Davidson and Leticia Pérez Castellanos. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press, 2019.

Cosmopolitan Ambassadors presents the first extensive, long-term study of a six-year international partnership involving the exchange of two exhibitions among four cultural institutions in Aotearoa New Zealand, Mexico, and Australia. Drawing on multi-sited ethnography across three countries, including 51 interviews with museum professionals and 86 with visitors, the authors offer an in-depth account of the multiple meanings and interpretations of international exhibitions based on the E Tu Ake exhibition that traveled from Te Papa in New Zealand to the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) in Mexico, and the Aztecs exhibition that traveled from the INAH in Mexico to Te Papa as well as the Melbourne Museum and the Australian Museum in Sydney. Conceptualizing sites of international exhibitions exchanges as contact zones in which assemblages of people, objects, and practices come together in a kaleidoscopic manner, the authors argue that exhibition exchanges create multiple centers of shared meanings, in both rhetoric and practice, through the mediation and translation of differences, which can pave the way for museums to advance a cosmopolitan agenda on the world stage.

The introductory chapter sets out the objectives, analytical framework, and methodological approach of the study. It proposes an interdisciplinary approach spanning museum studies, cultural diplomacy, cosmopolitanism, and intercultural studies to develop a theoretical understanding of international exhibitions grounded in the notion of a polycentral museum, in which multiple centers of intercultural understanding are constantly produced through dialogues and negotiations. Chapter 2 unpacks the process of collaboration among the participating cultural institutions, focusing on how museum professionals navigate the complex political, cultural, and museological contexts in the three different countries to realize the exhibitions. Chapter 3 focuses on the museological approaches and display strategies adopted by each of the four museums as they adapt the international exhibitions for their local audiences. Chapter 4 examines the interpretation of the exhibition narratives by the local audiences, focusing on their meaning-making processes. Chapter 5 considers these international exhibitions within the context of cultural diplomacy and the respective countries’ foreign policy positions. The final chapter summarizes the key findings of the study and proposes practical recommendations for museums seeking to conduct successful exhibition exchanges.

This ambitious study makes a significant contribution to museum literature as the first longitudinal study of a large-scale reciprocal international exhibition exchange that holistically considers museum exchanges from perspectives of museum professionals and visitors in both host and lending museums. The strength of this study also lies in its rich ethnographic details, which shed light on the complexities and nuances of bringing together people, objects, and practices from different political, cultural, and museological contexts for the exchanges, as well as the visitors’ situated engagements with the exhibits and their meaning-making processes. The insightful reflections proffered by the museum professionals and visitors on their experiences of the exhibitions highlight how each exhibition exchange was a confluence and culmination of different factors which called for its own negotiation and translation of different political, cultural, and museological contexts, which in turn informed the authors’ use of the “polycentral kaleidoscope” as a central analytical framework for the study. The lack of a historical colonial relationship between the collaborating partners—New Zealand/Australia and Mexico—offers an opportunity to understand the cultural dynamics of cross-cultural exhibition exchanges in a context devoid of the historical baggage of colonialization that can give rise to unequal power relations in the collaboration.

More importantly, the study builds on the pioneering work on the integration of Indigenous perspectives in Te Papa Tongarewa's museum practices (McCarthy 2011) by demonstrating how Indigenous approaches can inform the practices of international museum exchanges through Te Papa's export of the E Tu Ake exhibition to the INAH. It makes an original contribution to the scholarship on Indigenous museology by considering how Indigenous approaches to museology and museological practices can be applied to international museum exchanges. This is a significant contribution to the extant academic scholarship on Indigenous museology, which the authors could have emphasized more. The authors could also have expanded on the broader economic and social objectives as the external drivers for engaging in international exchanges, alongside diplomatic factors, to offer a more holistic assessment of the drivers of such exchanges. For example, my study on the Singapore-France cultural collaboration showed that the economic and social imperatives of transforming Singapore into a “Distinctive Global City for the Arts” and increasing the cultural quotient of Singaporeans took priority over the political-diplomatic significance of the exhibition exchanges (Cai 2013).

Overall, this richly detailed and highly accessible book on international exhibition exchanges presents an important ethnographic study of an international exhibition exchange on a scale and scope never been attempted. It is a must-read for academics in the field of cultural diplomacy and museum studies, as well as for museum professionals interested in undertaking cross-cultural museum exchanges.

Yunci Cai

University of Leicester

Reference

  • Cai, Yunci. 2013. “The Art of Museum Diplomacy: The Singapore-France Cultural Collaboration in Perspective.” International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 26 (2): 127144. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-012-9122-7

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  • McCarthy, Conal. 2011. Museums and Maori: Heritage Professionals, Indigenous Collections, Current Practice. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

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Museums, International Exhibitions and China's Cultural Diplomacy Linda Da Kong. London: Routledge, 2021.

International exhibitions are one of the main ways in which museums operate on the world stage and, at least pre-pandemic, were regular fixtures at major cultural institutions across the globe. A growing body of research and scholarship is focused on the role of museums as diplomatic actors, including deeper analysis of “museum diplomacy” as having distinct forms and underpinnings compared to foreign policy-driven cultural diplomacy (Priewe and Smith, forthcoming). But as Da Kong points out in Museums, International Exhibitions and China's Cultural Diplomacy, most of this work comes from a North American or European perspective. Kong's book, therefore, contributes a much-needed Chinese perspective to the literature on museum/cultural diplomacy and to the global understanding of Chinese museums more generally.

In the past two decades, China's museum sector has been expanding at a staggering rate. In the same period, the Chinese government has become more concerned with promoting itself as open, democratic, innovative, “civilised and advanced,” while viewing cultural relics as the most “influential, popular, distinctive and effective” vehicles for shaping this international image (57, 91). Over two intriguing chapters, Kong discusses China's evolving approach to cultural diplomacy, and the role played by museums and international exhibitions. China, she writes, uses culture to “explain, promote and defend the Chinese government's policies” rather than aiming for “mutual understanding” (33–34).

This assessment points to a critical discussion within the wider literature, that is, how is cultural diplomacy distinctive from, and what is its relationship with, its close relatives: public diplomacy, soft power, national branding, propaganda, and international cultural relations? Debates circle around how cultural diplomacy is practiced and by whom, what its purposes are, and the extent of state involvement. A growing criticism of cultural diplomacy focuses on cultural spectacle, simplistic nationalistic narratives, and a one-way transmission of values—as blockbuster museum exhibitions often do—as opposed to reciprocal engagement and intercultural dialogue (Albro 2015; Goff 2015; Wallis 1994).

Against this backdrop, Museums, International Exhibitions and China's Cultural Diplomacy examines the extent to which the Chinese government directly influences international exhibitions and how these exhibitions impact China's image abroad. At the heart of the book are four case studies of blockbuster exhibitions on China staged in the UK in the first two decades of the twenty-first century: China: The Three Emperors, 1662–1795 (Royal Academy, November 2005 to April 2006); The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army (British Museum, January 2007 to April 2008); The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China (Fitzwilliam Museum, May to November 2012); and Ming: 50 Years That Changed China (British Museum, September 2014 to January 2015).

Each case-study chapter contains a detailed discussion of the genesis of the exhibitions, how the museums in China and the UK worked together and the role of Chinese government organizations in this process. Kong concludes it was the Chinese museums rather than the government that initiated, organized, and delivered the exhibitions, while the themes and narratives were largely determined by the host museums. At the same time, the exhibitions promoted an image of China that was generally in alignment with the Chinese government's cultural diplomacy goals.

A few points in particular caught my attention. Decisions about how to present an exhibition about one culture to another can involve a complex balancing act between sensitivity to the represented culture and a desire to explore the complexities and contradictions that exist in the histories of all cultures. In The First Emperor, the British Museum was accused of whitewashing because it emphasized the regime's positive aspects over its brutality. While celebratory stories may be seen as respectful on the host museum's part, and advantageous in terms of national image for the lending institutions, there is an argument that it underestimates the sophistication and critical capacities of the audience. Indeed, there is evidence that museum visitors appreciate exploring complexity and contradiction over romanticized and sanitized versions of a culture, and that a country's capacity for critical self-reflection on its own past may garner respect rather than tarnish a national image, while at the same time preempting accusations of propagandistic messaging (Ang et al. 2015; Davidson and Pérez Castellanos 2019; McDonald 2014).

Decisions about what kinds of exhibitions to stage are also illuminating. As Kong points out, China's nervousness about supporting contemporary art exhibitions because they might contain critical commentary results in an unbalanced image of China abroad—with a focus on past achievements rather than showing a living and dynamic culture that has something new and innovative to offer the world. The emphasis on ancient “masterpieces”—while often essential for blockbuster status and media interest—can also be problematic, as it highlights elite culture over the “everyday.” Interestingly, The Search for Immortality included ordinary objects (e.g., a stone lavatory) to connect the audience with the Chinese people and tell a story about their admirable characteristics—an angle that was appreciated by the media.

Kong analyzes media reports and exhibition reviews to draw conclusions about how the exhibitions impacted the image of China in the UK. The case studies all prompted media discussion about contemporary China, with the current state of foreign relations forming a crucial backdrop to public discourse and interpretation. While not all the commentary was positive, Kong concludes that overall, in the period between the first case study in 2005 and the last in 2014, Britons had begun to see China “in a new light” (67) and that the “years of exchanges had made understanding of China more comprehensive” (115). However, she acknowledges that the exhibitions took place during a period of improving China-UK relations, and since then the relationship has cooled.

Kong sees it as an important mission for Chinese museums to contribute to China's foreign policy goals and promote an image of a “responsible power interested in peaceful development” (12)—something that may prove increasingly challenging given recent world events that have dented China's image. At the same time, she argues for increasing the level of professionalism in Chinese museums through exhibition exchanges, where museum professionals from different countries work collaboratively to coproduce exhibitions, rather than one-way loans for exhibitions where the host institutions do most of the exhibition development. This approach is also in greater alignment with calls for new forms of diplomacy that focus less on foreign policy agendas and are instead based on transnational networks, the coproduction of shared knowledge, and mutual professional commitments (Albro 2015). This shift adheres to a cosmopolitan agenda of a more harmonious and empathetic world, as opposed to flooding global media with myriad projections of attractive national brands (Rösler 2015; Villanueva Rivas 2010).

Unfortunately, due to the retrospective nature of the case studies, we do not know anything about the impact the exhibitions had on the general audience. This highlights the pressing need for more visitor studies of international exhibitions to determine their efficacy as forms of diplomacy (Clarke 2016; Davidson and Pérez Castellanos 2019). Nonetheless, Museums, International Exhibitions and China's Cultural Diplomacy is a fascinating read and an important contribution to the literature on museum/cultural diplomacy. As shown in earlier studies (e.g., Cai 2013; Davidson and Pérez Castellanos 2019), international exhibitions must navigate complex and contrasting political, institutional, and museological contexts, and on that basis alone this book is vital reading for any museums contemplating partnerships with Chinese museums.

While the pandemic has disrupted the circulation of international exhibitions—particularly large blockbuster shows—it has prompted calls to rethink the what, why, and how of touring exhibitions. Increasingly, the conversation is about how to make these exhibitions more sustainable, with more diversity in content and format, less focused on national narratives and more on advancing intercultural dialogue and cosmopolitan outlooks.

Lee Davidson, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington

Reference

  • Albro, Robert. 2015. “The Disjunction of Image and Word in US and Chinese Soft Power Projection.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 21 (4): 382399. https://doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2015.1042471

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  • Ang, Ien, Yudhishthir Raj Isar, and Phillip Mar. 2015. “Cultural Diplomacy: Beyond the National Interest?International Journal of Cultural Policy 21 (4): 365381. https://doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2015.1042474

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  • Cai, Yunci. 2013. “The Art of Museum Diplomacy: The Singapore-France Cultural Collaboration in Perspective.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 26 (2): 127144. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-012-9122-7

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  • Clarke, David. 2016. “Theorising the Role of Cultural Products in Cultural Diplomacy from a Cultural Studies Perspective.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 22 (2): 147163. https://doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2014.958481

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  • Davidson, Lee, and Leticia Pérez Castellanos. 2019. Cosmopolitan Ambassadors: International Exhibitions, Cultural Diplomacy and the Polycentral Museum. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press.

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  • Goff, Patricia M. 2015. “Cultural Diplomacy.” In The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy, ed. Andrew F. Cooper, Jorge Heine, and Ramesh Thakur. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199588862.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199588862-e-24.

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  • McDonald, Gay. 2014. “Aboriginal Art and Cultural Diplomacy: Australia, the United States, and the Culture Warriors Exhibition.” Journal of Australian Studies 38 (1): 1831. https://doi.org/10.1080/14443058.2013.859168

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  • Priewe, Sascha, and Sarah E. K. Smith, eds. Forthcoming. The Handbook of Museum Diplomacy. Washington, DC: American Alliance of Museums Press.

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  • Rösler, Bettina. 2015. “The Case of Asialink's Arts Residency Program: Towards a Critical Cosmopolitan Approach to Cultural Diplomacy.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 21 (4): 463477. https://doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2015.1042467

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  • Villanueva Rivas, César. 2010. “Cosmopolitan Constructivism: Mapping a Road to the Future of Cultural and Public Diplomacy.” Public Diplomacy Magazine (Winter): 4556.

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  • Wallis, Brian. 1994. “Selling Nations: International Exhibitions and Cultural Diplomacy.” In Museum Culture: Histories, Discourses, Spectacles, ed. Daniel J. Sherman and Irit Rogoff, 265281. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.

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Curating (Post-)Socialist Environments Philipp Schorch and Daniel Habit. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2021.

Curating (Post-)Socialist Environments is an edited volume of chapters devoted to examining a twisted knot of social questions that Eastern Europe was left with after the collapse of the Soviet system. It focuses on how Soviet ideological and cultural heritage is managed, interpreted, and curated. Since the times of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, this practice of transformation and reinterpretation of material culture, and recalibrating the ideology of previous regimes, has been ever present, as heritage and museums adapt to new social and political realities.

The editors Philipp Schorch and Daniel Habit, together with their contributors, have produced a survey that scopes out how (post-)socialism has been reinstalled in the structures of museum and heritage management practice in East Germany (Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin), as well as Czechia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland.

For the authors, “curation” provides a double-edged lens through which to observe how the transformation of the various (post-)socialist environments is enacted and through which these processes are approached and critically analyzed. This academic approach allows the reader to see how those spatial changes cure the social “wounds of the past” or how curators help find ways to reconcile people with their inconvenient historical heritage in urban environments, museums, and cultures of performance. In this volume, the authors extend the notion of curation to accommodate all the practices connected with “the enduring afterlife of socialist material-spatial and visual remains [… that] continue to be mobilised for particular ends: ethical, political, ideological, economic and so on” (22). They take the notion of “curation” from museums to city streets, including under that rubric spontaneous acts and unconscious manifestations of heritage, diverse community expressions of the past without a clear master plan, and look at all of it as a way to address a disruptive past.

This broad approach enables the authors to triangulate their analysis using three dimensions of the collective memory of the socialist past: urban environments and sites of memory, museology and curatorial practices, and material/visual performances, everything that retains the memories of people, the epoch, its utopia hopes, but also the victims. In doing so contributors to the volume extend the idea of curated (post-)socialist environments into the concept of curated conditions of the built environment, involving in this category exhibitions, city environments, murals, monuments, and other spatial manifestations of collective memory.

Using this method, contributors address the following particular issues. A few chapters in the book (Agnieszka Balcerzak) pose the question of whether historical reconstructions in museums can convey real memories or whether they just become a tool to build modern political struggles, using historical objects, images, and narratives as an instrument of political propaganda and myth-making. In terms of art and galleries, April Eisman concludes that post-unification neoliberalism in Germany results in a predominance of Western painters’ exhibitions in East Germany, disregarding the local art world and overlooking the peculiarities of its art. Or, as Martin Roggenbuck shows, how Soviet era art and architecture were adopted and valorized by the new regime. Fruitful cooperation between an ethnographic museum and Indian hobbyists is analyzed by Frank Usbeck, who points out the social education orientation of GDR museology, which at the same time allowed social escapism. It is noted that in the socialist era, collaboration was even mutually beneficial in political terms when both ethnographic hobbyists and political regimes teamed up to criticize American capitalism for the oppression of native peoples. The politics of capitalist states in Africa was also a focus of critical museum curation in the GDR in the soviet period as analyzed by Stefanie Bach.

Overall, the argument in the book is that the turning point of 1990, and the transfiguration of heritage management practice and curation preceding and following it decades after, is an opportunity to reinterpret the history, culture, and art of this period and reveal new and different meanings. In the process of rethinking historical epochs and their heritage, old things can gain new understandings. The chapters brought together in this volume analyze this process across the Eastern European region showing clearly that curation is not a unidirectional action. Every regime, state, or government in the countries under consideration curated history and material-spatial environments to legitimize their power by homogenizing societies through an identification with a unified national history. But heritage can play tricks on those who try to manipulate it through monodirectional curation. As Glenn Penny reminds us, “the act of labelling would probably obscure more than it could reveal” (335). Studying this continuing process through the book gives readers the opportunity to change (or recurate) their knowledge of (post-)socialist societies through a different lens. Curating (Post-)Socialist Environments evidences the reworking of the old confrontation between the two ideologies of the Cold War and the ongoing struggle between the homogenized narrative of nation-states and the polyvalence of multiple and overlapping reconstructions of pasts, presents, and futures in current society. Now more than ever, this is about the present, and how the past is used to make and remake it.

Valentin Gorbachev

Ryazan

A Cultural Arsenal for Democracy: The World War II Work of US Museums Clarissa J. Ceglio. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2022.

Are museums to be objective educational institutions, or do they have a responsibility to engage in civic matters, even to the point of encouraging activism? Clarissa Ceglio uses this ongoing conversation as the framework for her examination of US museums during World War II. Drawing on records, correspondence, and reports from eight museums regarding several exemplary exhibits along with contemporary museum literature, Ceglio traces the complex history of “social instrumentality,” the Progressive era–inspired idea that museums should be actively involved in current events, while the United States prepared for, fought, and recovered from World War II.

Museums, Ceglio argues, attempted to walk a fine line between being sites of persuasive mass communications and government propaganda, believing all the while they could avoid the pitfalls of the latter's excesses. The beginnings of a paradigm shift toward social instrumentality during a time of war, she convincingly claims, constitutes a forgotten or ignored aspect of the debate between whether museums should take active stances on social and political issues or remain objectively neutral. Ceglio correctly posits that there is scant extant scholarship that credits World War II with giving museums the nudge toward active engagement with current events. Hers is an attempt, to some degree, to rectify this issue.

New Deal populism and government partnerships paved the way for wartime cooperation between museums, politicians, and bureaucrats. For those sympathetic to activism, museums could be a defense against fascism and a means for social influence. Museums struggled with the question of where the line lay between indoctrination and jingoism and the honest pursuit of relevance and social instrumentality. Practitioners sought to distinguish their work from patriotic propaganda within the setting of the activist versus objectivity debate. And yet, these wartime efforts resolved little—there was no postwar, museum-wide acceptance of social instrumentality as a modus operandi. However, the author posits, histories of paradigm shifts require recognition of the tremors that are preludes to a tectonic shift.

Ceglio categorized the book into three themes: the “Good Neighborhood” of hemispheric unity; the home front as solidarity; and “One World” at peace. She begins by detailing how the arguments for social instrumentality intersected with evolving ideas about the supposedly inherent educational properties of objects and the process of meaning making through exhibitions. Attempts at avoiding war and “Good Neighbor” initiatives focused on hemispheric unity built on earlier Pan-American cultural exchange efforts constitute the successive sections of the book. Ceglio then traces how the war pushed into the foreground the existing divide on whether persuasive communications may be used constructively to forward progressive agendas. She continues by defining the home front and what being an American meant while revealing how prewar investments in social reform gave way to the reinforcement of social and domestic continuity.

Ceglio provides examples of how US museums prepared the public for peace and situated themselves as harbingers of cosmopolitan citizenship, with the spirit of inherent human “sameness” and respect for cultural diversity as guiding principles. As such, she attempts to answer why it was that certain museums abandoned social instrumentality with the resuscitation of typological exhibit arrangements with underlying hierarchical differences linked to colonialism. Reluctance to use internationalism to push for racial equality at home and rising Cold War nationalism with accompanying Red Scare tactics branded reformers as subversive radicals and played a role in quelling support for progressive activism. Finally, the author argues for the importance of the social instrumentality experiment in terms of understanding the debates over objectivity, neutrality, and civil relevance and how museum professionals thought of meaning making through objects.

Unfortunately, Ceglio commits a fundamental error in the book by interpreting the past through a modern lens, making it difficult for the reader to place the discussion in context. The framework incorporates white racial attitudes that shaped exhibitions and efforts, an apparent use of presentism. As an example, the author speculates that exhibitions promoting hemispheric unity did little more than reveal inequities of hemispheric citizenship. Why not consider that these exhibitions also could have reinforced notions of the superiority of capitalism? Why frame issues in terms of white attitudes? Why not call them majority attitudes? Sadly, this type of cultural criticism, which will undoubtedly be popular within museum circles today, does not contribute meaningfully to her overall argument.

Although the work seems to be one of the few attempts to examine this period in our history, it remains a limited study. The author examined only a handful of museums and exhibitions, particularly the Newark Museum's Three Southern Neighbors: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia (1941–1942); the Museum of Modern Art's Wartime Housing (1942); and the Wadsworth Atheneum's What the Boys Send Home (1945). Admittedly, this may be due to a dearth of archival material, which Ceglio acknowledges. However, the lack of balance suggests the practice of card stacking. The author is clearly sympathetic to progressive social instrumentality efforts and rarely offers a detailed examination of valid counterpoints. This is significant in that the debate was clearly not settled by war's end, as she admits.

Ceglio laments museums’ acquiescence of a progressive agenda in order to remain relevant during the war effort and never questions the motives of those pushing for social change to combat inequities, accepting those motivations as altruistic without scrutiny. Yet these types of efforts can be equally as propagandistic. One may be as cynical about the shift toward social instrumentality as progressives were to previous paradigms. She also often reduces causal factors to single variables like racism and classism, a feature of critical theory, especially when discussing exhibitions focused on wartime housing needs. There were surely many motives for individuals not wanting transient housing projects in their neighborhoods.

All criticisms aside, Ceglio's work does have upsides. It brings into focus the lack of literature on the topic of the beginnings of the paradigm shift that is taken for granted today, but one that I suggest remains unsettled. And, while one-sided, it does illuminate the effect World War II had on museum practice. The museum field would be wise to pay attention to this book and others like it: its value lies in demonstrating that war changes things, for better or worse.

Nathan C. Jones

General George Patton Museum, Fort Knox

Mobile Museums: Collections in Circulation Felix Driver, Mark Nesbitt, and Caroline Cornish, eds. London: UCL Press, 2021.

Stemming from a conference held at Kew Gardens in 2019, Mobile Museums is an edited volume that centers on interdisciplinary approaches to the circulation of collections. Reflecting this origin, the volume emphasizes natural history, botanical, and biocultural collections. Taking as their premise that collections are “inherently mobile, actually or potentially” (4), the editors have brought together contributions that “re-examine, inform and unsettle” (1) assumptions about the formation of museums and mobility of collections.

Through a diverse range of case studies, the authors illustrate that the circulation of collections was “designed into the structure of the museum system” in the nineteenth century (4), and call attention to the ethical requirement to consider “the forms of mobility available in the present” (6). This dual focus on the histories and futures of collections in circulation characterizes the theoretical approach of this volume. While some chapters lean more toward historical accounts, the volume represents a collective attention to the ways in which the historical and contemporary movement of collections intersects with practical issues of research, collections care, and community connections.

Mobile Museums encompasses a general approach to mobility, which refers to the movement of people, things, institutions, and knowledge across the volume. This broad emphasis on mobility contributes to ongoing efforts to challenge conceptions of museums as static, while situating the volume within wider cross-disciplinary discussions of mobility and movement. One of the major theoretical contributions of this volume is a focus on circulation at a collections level: the things in this volume move in groups and patterns. This works well to maintain a consistent emphasis on critical histories of collecting institutions, while widening attention to circulation beyond the provenance or life histories of individual objects.

This is an accessible volume: it is open access and clearly written. Its theoretical position—collections move, and have always moved—is broad and straightforward enough to let the case studies speak for themselves. At 375 pages and 14 chapters, which are not divided into thematic sections, Mobile Museums initially appears more like a lengthy series of individual case studies than a cohesive volume. However, the editors note that the original conference papers were presented in pairs, and, with close attention, this is apparent in the structure of the book: adjacent chapters tend to speak to each other in relation to their themes or methods.

Two chapters that pair particularly well are those that discuss the role of botanic garden collections in public and school education in New York (Sally Gregory Kohlsted, chapter 7) and London (Laura Newman, chapter 8). Both authors call attention to the role of collections that were dispersed from “the literally rooted sites of botanical gardens” (199) into the hands of schoolteachers and children in the form of seeds, teaching specimens, and educational materials. Like other historically focused chapters within the volume, these contributions emphasize how collections became implicated in the circulation of imperial assumptions and the shaping of public knowledge and discourses.

The volume is bookended by two pairs of chapters that speak to each other about examples of circulation that involve contemporary community engagement. In the final chapters, Claudia Augustat (chapter 11) considers the potential for harm when collections are remobilized in Amazonia contrary to local memory practices, while Karen Jacobs (chapter 12) engages with the complex processes of mobility that surround the collection of intimate knowledge and material associated with clothing and tattooing in Fiji. Effectively reflecting the concerns of both chapters, Jacobs characterizes mobilities as “social processes that bring knowledge into a common space in which meanings are negotiated and articulated” (324).

Augustat's and Jacobs's chapters resonate with the calls to action presented in the opening pair of chapters by Luciana Martins (chapter 1) and Paul Basu (chapter 2). Martins emphasizes how Amazonian biocultural collections can “emerge as relevant political tools of cultural resilience” (39), while Basu describes the “decolonial affordances” (48) that become possible when West African photographic collections circulate back to the communities in which they were taken. Basu's chapter most clearly articulates the ethical concerns that underlie the volume's emphasis on future mobilities of collections, calling for museums to “experiment with new ways of reassembling, remediating, recirculating and reconfiguring collections so that a wider range of stakeholders and communities can access them on their own terms, in pursuit of their own goals” (66).

The volume closes with a thoughtful afterword by Martha Fleming, who emphasizes the necessity of the interdisciplinary methods represented in Mobile Museums for examining, challenging, and shaping the “infrastructures” (328) of mobile collections for the future. In light of this broad disciplinary scope and attention to diverse collections—as well as its theoretical attention to circulation beyond individual objects—Mobile Museums will be of use to anyone who needs to follow a collection on the move.

Kirsty Kernohan

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge

Écrire la muséologie: Méthodes de recherche, rédaction, communication [Writing museology, Research methods, writing, communication] François Mairesse and Fabien Van Geert. Paris: Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle Ed, 2021.

François Mairesse is a professor and researcher in museology, cultural economics, and cultural mediation at the Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle Paris 3. Fabien van Geert, professor in museology at the same university, researches questions related to multiculturalism and ethnographic museums. Together, they have written the book Écrire la muséologie: Méthode de recherche, rédaction, communication, published in the Les fondamentaux series by La Sorbonne Nouvelle.

The text provides context for how to carry out research in museology; how to do it, the influential authors, how to present it, and so on. From this perspective, the book is geared toward museum professionals, researchers, and students of museology alike. The need for a manual aimed at a such a broad audience reminds the reader of the important distinctions between museum practice and museological research—a division that was less apparent some years ago. Today, written research contributions are a crucial way to think about, and participate in, the development of museums and the field of museology. As a scientific discipline, museology is not clearly defined and is intrinsically multidisciplinary, something the authors recognize and communicate very well. As such, Écrire la museologie is a thorough guide to research and writing for everyone connected to the museum field, across all aspects.

The first chapter examines what research is in museology. This book was written by two francophone authors and thereby offers a different perspective from the English-dominant literature. Since the book is written in French, most of the authors introduced are francophones. With this shift, they take time to explain how museology (muséologie) differs from “museum studies,” the preferred term in English—the first one having been more influenced by visitor studies and the second having been influenced by ethnology, as well as cultural studies. This distinction is important because museology is not a single, well-determined field but rather a combination of multiple fields such as ethnology, history, art history, and sociology, with research conducted all around the world from different cultural perspectives. As such, the authors present an overview of the major contributors to the field in French, English, and Spanish. They also highlight the important contribution of Eastern European authors in trying to define museology as a scientific and academic field. These two aspects are recurrent themes throughout the book. The authors also explore a variety of books that deal with museums in a generalist approach. They also present books on more specific museum-related themes such as their function, their organization, and the more recent addition of museums as places of power.

The second chapter summarizes the steps taken in creating a research project. The authors highlight the importance of administrative tasks during such an undertaking, such as time management, money, demands, and reports. Because funding in museum research tends to be harder to obtain than in other fields, it is important to be on top of those aspects in order to retain the funds.

In the third chapter, the authors concede that researchers must sometimes step out of their comfort zone, their field, in order to study what has been done in other fields. This will help them better understand the complexity of their questions. They must look at sources outside those strictly based in museums and use methodology from other fields. This chapter offers a guide on how to choose these resources and where to find them. The authors list new sources such as social media and various online resources but emphasize the difficulties in working with them. A useful guide on how to check the professionalism of the sources is also provided.

The fourth chapter talks about fieldwork, referring to the moment when a researcher gathers the data needed to answer a research question. In this case, fieldwork can refer either to a geographical terrain such as a museum or a city or to a conceptual framework. This means that museology encourages research both on site and in books. The authors list various methods by which to gather data while noting that it is important to choose the appropriate method to answer the questions. This is where a well-established bibliographic corpus is needed, to better comprehend the field.

The fifth and sixth chapters discuss the writing, data analysis, and presentation of research. For the authors, the analysis is the moment where the researcher truly gets to understand the data and what it says. They remind the reader that a good researcher generally spends more time analyzing the data than collecting it.

The last chapter presents recommendations on sharing the results of research. The classic way is with an oral presentation, a format often very regimented, whether during a conference or a thesis defense. In this chapter, the authors touch too briefly on a newer method of presentation, that of the exhibition. Given that museum exhibitions are conceived as research projects, often produced with the same methodology as the one presented in this book, would it not be possible to view exhibitions as a valuable way to present more academic research? The parallels made between the conception of an exhibition and a thesis, for example, show the gap that has emerged between the museum and the university, when they are similar in many ways.

The authors further maintain that the study of the “exhibition device” (dispositif exposition) could be the way to make museology a field on its own, by giving it the specificity it craves. This is a way to stop seeing it as an extension of art history, ethnology, archaeology, and so on—the fields museology is often attached to in universities and in museums. The refocusing of museology toward this kind of research could be beneficial in bridging the gap between researcher and museum.

However, by recognizing that museology is the result of the fusion of multiple fields (ethnology, art history, history, archaeology, etc.), the methodology of this book strongly resembles that of all these fields. If the examples given are specific to the museum world, the research project's structure is too similar and gives way to some redundancies. There are only so many ways you can tell someone how to write, how to analyze and gather data, and how to present them.

Even if this book is only available in French at the moment, any researcher in museology should want to read it. First, because it offers a methodology to both students and professionals. While there are many guides for students, professionals who are not in an academic environment will benefit from having a clear methodology, as well as a refresher on writing and presenting research. Second, because it highlights the contribution of French and Spanish authors to the field. The authors point out, and rightly so, that research in a variety of languages offers a variety of points of view, and to rely exclusively on English writing obscures important contributions to the understanding and the evolution of the museum field. The bibliography, with half the titles in French, serves as a good introduction to anyone who wishes to see what is being said about museums all around the world.

Heidi Weber

Université du Québec à Montréal

Cultural Renewal in Cambodia: Academic Activism in the Neoliberal Era Philippe Peycam. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

Working as the founding director of the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) in Siem Reap from 1999 to 2009, Philippe Peycam wrote the monograph Cultural Renewal in Cambodia based on this career experience. Even if not clearly stated in the book, the title implies the inspiration of Pontynen's Cultural Renewal: Restoring the Liberal and Fine Arts (2017), which defines cultural renewal as a rehabilitation of the pursuit of wisdom and beauty through humanities and arts. This is exactly the commitment of the CKS, which has a hybrid local-global and national-international character, with academic and educational goals. It was established to consolidate a community of intellectuals in area studies to open up a civic space of public debate and to decenter the Western hegemony in the field of Cambodian and Southeast Asian studies. Reflecting on a decade of work at this grassroot organization on various heritage-related projects, Peycam explores an alternative “use” of culture, as an emancipatory force “in its humanistic, intellectual and aesthetic definition” (1), rather than being constructed as heritage in its political or commercial definition.

From the perspective of the project designer, Peycam presents how these training and capacity-building programs and activities at the CKS serve as an emancipatory force for the local community and national intellectuals. The Junior Faculty Training Programs (2004–2010) are one of its flagship projects, training young Cambodian university students and staff with global perspectives according to international standards and providing them with further opportunities to study overseas in the culture/heritage-related fields such as anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics (chapter 5). The CKS also provided technical support for the preservation of collections in the National Museum of Cambodia, l'Institut Bouddhique de Phnom Penh (the Buddhist Institute of Phnom Penh), and the National Library of Cambodia, as well as supporting national and international artists and artisans working on the intangible heritage of Cambodian dance and textiles through restoring and disseminating endangered traditions and promoting and producing new works (chapter 6). All these activities can be regarded as forms of community engagement, for both scholars and craftspeople, using the local/national heritage resources. The CKS facilitates a process whereby intellectuals, who play a pedagogical role for the entire nation, coproduce knowledge and engage in dialogue with makers and communities. Unlike many heritage-related institutions seeking fame and profit, the CKS takes pains to avoid connections with political forces and commercialization such as mass reproductions of crafts driven by the market.

But the “use” of culture (and heritage) was and is being tamed by political powers and the market economy. Trained in the modern history of Southeastern Asia, Peycam contextualizes the social experimentations of the CKS under three intertwining and contradictory forces in postwar Cambodia (chapter 3). These are a democratic political system; an inescapable integration into the global market; and a social evolution toward autonomous individuals and communities. The global trends of political ideology and a capitalist economy do impact the CKS's heritage projects. As a nonprofit organization, the CKS depends on its patrons financially. Its collaborative funders were not attracted merely by the CKS's goodwill goals of civic emancipation but more by the cultural symbols, the social capital, and the soft power embedded in heritage. For example, wealthy philanthropists in New York strove to fund the CKS's archaeological conservation projects at Angkor, considering it a sign of good taste in culture, but hesitated to support the long-term scholarly research that in their eyes lacks cultural significance. Finally, at the Rockefeller Foundation the funding strategies suddenly changed after 2010, from cultivating a community in the local context to a systematic approach aimed at global impact. Aid ceased for the CKS's projects, partly due to the global financial crisis and partly to shifting US policies in the international relations arena (chapter 8). This failed collaboration with the cultural diplomacy of the Global North, who do not fully understand the orientation of the Center, also indicates that most of these agencies consider heritage merely as a cultural tool to reinforce their own geopolitical interests in the Global South (chapter 9). Furthermore, as admitted by the director, the CKS itself used its significant location, a living Buddhist monastery at the World Heritage Site of Angkor, as a major global heritage “brand,” in order to not only work with heritage communities and stakeholders but also to represent a close link with culture and to attract donations.

As a result, Peycam appears to have failed in his aim of setting up this alternative use of heritage as an emancipatory force without political or economic associations. Nevertheless, under his directorship, the CKS did succeed in its first decade in cultivating a group of prominent academics from local universities who have become educators for the public good. This proves that heritage can serve as a positive means to achieve social equality in the Global South (and probably in the North as well), even if it is unable to stand alone.

Meanwhile, this monograph is successful in establishing a new paradigm of ethnography in the field of critical heritage studies. The experience as head of a grassroot organization offers Peycam a rare chance to reflect on the uses of heritage from the standpoint of an insider, and even as a decision-maker. The book is never merely a working report nor a management guide from a nongovernment organization, but a personal and self-reflexive ethnography. In different parts of this book, Peycam portrays his multifaceted role at the CKS: a well-trained historian working as an executive authority, a white Frenchman devoting himself to Cambodian civic society, and a “seller” of cultural products to wealthy philanthropists. He may at times have become confused at his own position and orientation and that of the CKS. With a historian's hindsight, Peycam ascribes the CKS's final failure to the structural weakness of this grassroot institution in the post–Cold War context, but he does not present the complex negotiations and decision-making processes leading to its demise, which would have benefited readers wanting to know more.

Nevertheless, this work has ultimately given the author lots of lessons in knowledge production and institutional operations, which he has evidently used to advance his professional work—he is now director of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden—and his ongoing intellectual investigations in academia. As a former fellow of the IIAS, this book helps me better understand its operational logics and fundamental aims. Peycam states modestly in the introduction that he is not sure if he has detached his personal feelings from his reflections in the narrative. I'm not sure either. But I consider this the most moving feature of the book, even if it seems a bit emotionally subjective, as it clearly shows his ambitions, his devotion, and his frustrations with the big figures in the heritage arena.

Xiaomei Zhao

Fudan University, Shanghai

Animal Classification in Central China: From the late Neolithic to the early Bronze Age Ningning Dong. Oxford: BAR Publishing, 2021.

Animal classification is one of the complications we encounter when studying human-animal relations of the past. We tend to categorize animals into species according to their presumed natural relationships. The Linnaean taxonomy widely employed as a standardized typology of animals today is based mainly on the biological classification of animals in modern times. However, such animal categories may not work when considering how differently divided the animal worlds were in the past. The use of Linnaean taxonomy while interpreting archaeological faunal remains may create bias. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate folk taxonomies (i.e., how people describe and organize animals based on knowledge and relations) adopted by ancient societies.

Although there have been many debates on this topic, only a few pieces of zooarchaeological research have critically evaluated it at practical and methodological levels. Without question, Ningning Dong's book Animal Classification in Central China: From the Late Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age is a significant contribution to our understanding of past animal categorization. The book aims to explore how people in past societies viewed and used wild animals in farming societies. It contains eight chapters. At the beginning, the author provides an in-depth review of multiple theoretical perspectives on taxonomy in zooarchaeology, discusses taxonomies in ancient China based on textual records, and introduces the research design. In Dong's view, the formation of taxonomy involved mental and physical activities, which can be identified and evaluated through zooarchaeological analysis regarding social and historical contexts. Hence, a research framework consisting of statistical quantifications, isotope analysis, spatial analysis, as well as linguistic reference and historical records is set up in chapter 2.

Chapter 3 introduces the archaeological background, chronology, and six important animal species (deer, dog, pig, cattle, sheep, and horse) that existed in the faunal assemblages of the research region. In chapters 4, 5, and 6, evidence is collated from three late Neolithic and early Bronze Age archaeological assemblages in central China (Wadian, Wangchenggang, and Xinzhai). Finally, chapters 7 and 8 consist of an interpretation of the analytical results, further discussion, possible future directions, and conclusions.

This book is an exciting piece of work focusing on the ancient conceptions of wild animals after the emergence of agriculture in prehistoric China. The topic is unique and attractive. The Central Plains region has been considered the cradle of Chinese civilization by many scholars. The time spanning the late Neolithic to the early Bronze Age was associated with the increase of social complexity and the emergence of early states in China. The region examined and the research period selected have hence provided a rich archaeological background for the investigation of animal categories.

The research design and methodological framework are also very impressive features of this book. The relationship between taxonomy and deposition (e.g., type and formation process of the deposit; the species, location, condition, etc. of the animal deposited; whether intentional human activities were involved in the deposition process) is explored through the contextual-interpretive methodological approach. The spatial analysis of deposits and animals at the sites is a foundational part of the approach. Also, on top of the traditional statistical quantifications (i.e., number of identified specimens (NISP), minimum number of individuals) in zooarchaeology, the taxonomic composition indices are calculated based on the NISP count by the author specifically to evaluate whether pigs or deer were in abundance in different contexts. Even though Dong says in the book that such analytical techniques might not be suitable for other zooarchaeological studies, this method has revealed the significance of collecting detailed stratigraphic and contextual data; nevertheless, this is an innovative application of research methods in the zooarchaeological exploration of folk taxonomy.

Another strength of this work is that the zooarchaeological analysis indicates the remarkable differences in animal categorization in ancient China. Unlike the modern scientific Linnaean system, possible folk taxonomies are identified by the results. The age categories (young/adult) and wild/domesticated divisions were two prominent aspects of the discussion. It is clear that age has been an important indicator in classifying humans and nonhuman animals since the late Neolithic period in China, and it was closely associated with ritual activities. Interestingly, the author suggests the intentional separation of wild and domesticated animals developed much later, not until the early phase of the Shang dynasty (the Erligang period, ca. 1600–1400 BC), which shows that this categorical filter was established based more on our modern thinking. As Dong implies, around the Xinzhai period (ca.1850–1750 BC), human awareness of “inside” and “outside” was still ambiguous, and so was the boundary between “wild” and “domesticated.” Further investigations of these categorical filters are carried out on a much broader basis, from the connection between animals and ancient texts to past cosmological perceptions. Multiple lines of evidence are carefully considered and integrated in order to ascertain the interpretations. Furthermore, this book also provides inspiration for how we may present such differences in taxonomic systems to the public. For instance, an exhibition comparing the modern Linnaean taxonomy and the folk taxonomy that existed in ancient China (as discussed in this book) could be established in museums to encourage public interest in topics of human-animal interactions.

There are some limitations to this study that future research on the folk taxonomy of animals should consider. Most faunal datasets were gathered from published papers, and the quality of the datasets was uncontrollable, which likely led to errors and bias, especially in the taphonomic assessments. Additionally, this research was mainly focused on Chinese archaeological sites of certain time periods and geographic locations. Investigations through a broader span of space and time or even cross-cultural comparisons would be beneficial. Furthermore, combining results from other archaeological data, such as archaeobotany, material culture, architectural remains, other artifacts, symbolism, social developments, and so on, might create a larger picture of why and how such categorization systems were created, developed, and changed.

Nevertheless, this book has definitely enhanced our understanding of animal classifications in the past by providing theoretical and methodological insights. On the other hand, the texts referred to and the logic applied in the book are easy to follow for both professional archaeologists and nonprofessional individuals. Therefore, I would recommend this book to anybody interested in animal categories and folk taxonomy.

Xuelei Li

National Museum of China, Beijing

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  • Gildea, Andrea. 2022. “Reading Imagining Decolonisation, the Slim Book That Invites Us to Dream Big.” The Spinoff, 27 January. https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/27-01-2022/reading-imagining-decolonisation-the-slim-book-that-invites-us-to-dream-big.

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  • Cai, Yunci. 2013. “The Art of Museum Diplomacy: The Singapore-France Cultural Collaboration in Perspective.” International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 26 (2): 127144. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-012-9122-7

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  • McCarthy, Conal. 2011. Museums and Maori: Heritage Professionals, Indigenous Collections, Current Practice. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

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  • Albro, Robert. 2015. “The Disjunction of Image and Word in US and Chinese Soft Power Projection.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 21 (4): 382399. https://doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2015.1042471

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