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Posts from the ‘cultural anthropology’ Category

Translation and Materiality: The Travels of European Porcelain (2017 Bauman Lecture)

News of the upcoming Richard Bauman Lecture in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University is now circulating on campus. Here are the details about this year’s talk by Professor Susan Gal of the University of Chicago. Quoting:

“Translation and Materiality: The Travels of European Porcelain”
Dr. Susan Gal

Friday, March 24th
3:00 PM
Wylie Hall 005
Indiana University Bloomington

Abstract:

Porcelain is, today, a familiar material of dishes, figurines and tiles. The qualities of such objects – fineness, artistry – point to similar qualities in their buyers and users. Certainly, that is the role of material objects in systems of social distinction. Yet, this view often presumes that material qualities pre-exist the social, and need only be recognized. In some versions of the current ontological debate in Anthropology and Cultural Studies, materiality is the ultimate limit on cultural interpretation. I argue, instead, that the properties of materials are not fixed. They are semiotic achievements reached by a dialectical process of embodied social interaction with objects within political and economic institutions. The histories of “porcelain” in Europe show the varied qualities it has embodied as it has been swept up – and translated – into diverse regimes of knowledge, state economic strategies, and politico-ethical discourses. Translations of porcelain destabilized attributed qualities, changing “it” as sign and as material.

CFP: Museum Anthropology Futures

On behalf of the Council for Museum Anthropology, I am happy to pass along the call for proposals for the Museum Anthropology Futures conference in Montreal this May. Find details below. (Quoted material follows, contact the organizers with questions or concerns.)

Call for Session Proposals: “Museum Anthropology Futures” Conference (due March 1)
Council for Museum Anthropology Inaugural Conference

May 25-27, 2017 at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The Council for Museum Anthropology is seeking submissions for its inaugural conference taking place in Montreal from May 25-27, 2017. This will not be your traditional conference experience! “Museum Anthropology Futures” seeks to spark critical reflection and discussion on (1) the state of museum anthropology as an academic discipline; (2) innovative methods for the use of collections; (3) exhibition experiments that engage with anthropological research; and (4) museums as significant sites for grappling with pressing social concerns such as immigration, inequality, racism, colonial legacies, heritage preservation, cultural identities, representation, and creativity as productive responses to these.

The conference will have several sessions each day that all participants will attend, as well as one period each day with breakout sessions like workshops and formats that would benefit from a more intimate setting for dialogue and collaboration.
We are seeking session proposals that are different than the usual call for papers – see session descriptions below. Feel free to email us with questions at museumfutures2017@gmail.com.

Updates available at our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MuseumFutures/

Email your session proposal to museumfutures2017@gmail.com by March 1, 2017

Please provide the following information in your email text, no attachment:

1) Your name, title, home institution (if applicable), and email address
2) Your proposed session format (see below)
3) The title of your session
4) Additional session participants if a group submission (title and email address)
5) A description of your session (max 150 words) Specific requirements for each format below.
6) What you hope to achieve in presenting/participating in this session (1-3 sentences)
7) What you believe this session can contribute to museum futures (1-3 sentences)
***Please note: Some Workshops and Pre-circulated Paper sessions will be by registration only due to limited capacity. All other sessions are open to all conference participants. For example, Roundtable or PechaKucha sessions will have several presenters who discuss their work, and the audience attending the session is invited to listen and ask questions or give feedback.***

SESSION FORMATS
Read more

Material Vernaculars: Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds (is out now)

I am happy to share this note to report that the edited collection Material Vernaculars: Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds has now been published. I am the editor of this volume, which includes contributions to material culture studies from Dan Swan and Jim Cooley, Jon Kay, Michael Paul Jordan, Danille Elise Christensen, and Gabrielle Berlinger. I love the work that my colleagues contributed to the book. In addition to sharing their scholarship, the volume serves to launch the Material Vernaculars book series of which it is a part. Also appearing in the new series, is Jon Kay’s Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and Their Makers (it was published last month).

The new series is published by the Indiana University Press in cooperation with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. IU Press is to be commended for its hard work bringing Material Vernaculars to press. Most of the papers in the volume were presented last fall at the 2015 Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society. The papers were presented, revised, peer-reviewed, revised again, copy edited, typeset, proof-read, corrected and processed for final publication (etc.) in less than a year, a scenario that is simply unprecedented in the world of academic book publishing. And the results are great–a well-designed, well-edited book that is rich with color images. Its all first rate.

IU Press has a big sale going through tomorrow (October 30). Its a perfect time to check out their list and perhaps purchase this new title. Paperback and Hardback editions are now available. Electronic editions are on their way. (More on that asap.)

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Who Cares About Craft as Traditional Knowledge?

This fall has been a particularly busy season for research-based programs at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. An an outgrowth of our Indiana Folk Arts: 200 Years of Tradition and Innovation exhibition and our participation in classes and programs for Themester, we will have hosted, by semester’s end, a very large number craftspeople or groups of craftspeople representative of a broad swath of vernacular making in Indiana. Because of our Themester mandate to focus on questions of Beauty in our engagements with these artist-craftspeople, our discussions with them have always had an aesthetic component. We have asked, for instance, questions like: “What characteristics do you associate with a beautiful weaving [or chair, or drum, or pottery bowl, or…]?” or “When producing for the marketplace, how do you balance functional use and aesthetic impact?” Art and aesthetics are a crucial part of the human experience and of what makes cultures distinctive and meaningful.

But the objects that we curate and interpret, and the makers of things with whom we engage, are not only about art. Even while many have both aesthetic and functional purposes, many others of our museum’s objects are not reasonably framed as art and some of our interlocutors are talented, knowledgeable makers and users of things, without being artists. Our work is bigger than art, as important as art is. Aesthetic values are part of larger cultural systems and those larger wholes are our focus. Whether in China or in Indiana, our work is about local knowledge, including traditional cultural knowledge. A big part of our engagements with makers focuses on the knowledge that goes into making–craft expertise along with local environmental and contextual knowledge concerned with uses, meanings, significances.

A detailed story in last Saturday’s Independent by Amalia Illgner is a good evocation of the kinds of concern we (particularly Traditional Arts Indiana, led ably by my colleague Jon Kay) try to bring to our work with craft objects, craft knowledge, and craftspeople. (I appreciate Matthew Bradley for sharing it with me.) Read the story (“Raiders of the Lost Crafts”) here. (I note here that, despite the declensionist hook and playful title, the author is not so obsessed with authenticity discourses that she disregards fruitful rediscovery of older craft knowledge through the study of museum collections and documentary materials. The story is a rare and rather sophisticated treatment of its subject.)

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Who cares about craft as traditional knowledge? My colleagues and I do. We also like art and we also love seeing where contemporary craftspeople, including studio craft, DIY craft, and many others, are taking their passions–but documenting what people know and have long known is important and helping foster environments where those who have traditional cultural knowledge are supported and encouraged is key part of our mission. If you care about such things, you still have lots of chances to engage your interests at the museum this year. This week we will host a wonderful group of African American quilters and a talented maker of African drums. In following weeks, we offer chances to connect with Indiana limestone carvers, a hoop-net maker, a rosemaler, a pysanky artist, a Native American potter, a Zapotec weaver, and an Orthodox iconographer. Learning from such craftspeople is something we intend to keep doing as along as we can.

Material Vernaculars Series Launches with Jon Kay’s Folk Art and Aging

This fall I will be talking a lot about the new book series that the Indiana University Press and the Mathers Museum of World Cultures are jointly publishing. I am the series’ editor and my friend and colleague Jon Kay is its first author. I will frame the series here, before I conclude this post, but I do not want to bury the lead, which is that there is a great new book in the world and you should buy and learn from it.

Jon Kay is Director of Traditional Arts Indiana, Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, and Professor of Practice in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University. His book is Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and Their Makers. (Jon’s content rich book website is here.) It is the fruit of many years of work exploring the creative lives of older adults in Indiana and in other parts of the United States. Jon has much to say about the ways that material culture and narrative come together in social encounters and in unfolding lives, as well as about about the ways that more attentive scholarship on the verbal and material life, as well as the memory, work, of elders can shape more humane and sensible approaches to what is increasingly referred to as creative aging, as well as to social gerontology more generally. The book is a folklorist’s book, but it also speaks very generatively to a range of neighboring disciplines. Written in a very clear and engaging style, it is the kind of book that lots of people (not just scholars) can read and both enjoy and learn from. At its center are profiles of five incredibly interesting creators of objects, stories, and lives. Jon helps share their stories and their creations in a really engaging way. The book has many beautiful color images and at 133 pages, it never gets bogged down.

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The hardback, paperback, and ebook editions are beautiful and they can be purchased from the Indiana University Press, from Amazon, from Google, and from many other retailers. I’ll tell you next time where to get the free PDF edition, but here I want to urge everyone who can to purchase one of the paper or ebook editions. Why? Paradoxically, because I believe in open access. If those who can do so purchase the modestly priced print or e-book editions, the IU Press will secure the revenue that it needs to produce more books such as Folk Art and Aging and to make them freely available to those who otherwise could not afford to purchase them. More on such questions next time.

Having introduced Folk Art and Aging to you, let me introduce the series quickly. The series précis reads:

The Material Vernaculars series presents ethnographic, historical, and comparative accounts of material and visual culture manifest in both the everyday and extraordinary lives of individuals and communities, nations and networks. While advancing a venerable scholarly tradition focused on the makers and users of hand-made objects, the series also addresses contemporary practices of mediation, refashioning, recycling, assemblage, and collecting in global and local contexts. Indiana University Press publishes the Material Vernaculars series in partnership with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University. The series accommodates a diversity of types of work, including catalogues and collections studies, monographs, edited volumes, and multimedia works. The series will pursue innovative publishing strategies intended to maximize access to published titles and will advance works that take fullest advantage of the affordances provided by digital technologies.

The series second title is an eponymous edited volume—Material Vernaculars: Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds. That collection is due out in a few days (September 5, 2016). In its introduction, I characterize in more detail the goals of the series as well as situate its disciplinary (cultural anthropology, folklore studies, ethnology, culture history) engagements as well as its place in the larger research work of the MMWC. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Congratulations to Jon Kay on his second book of the summer (see Indiana Folk Art) and to all of our friends at the Indiana University Press.

Reflections and Reports on Open Access Published in the New Issue of Cultural Anthropology (@culanth)

The new, May 2014 issue of Cultural Anthropology is out now. It is the second issue of the journal to be made freely available online, which means anyone with internet access can read it. (Hurray.) In support of the journal’s commitment to understanding and pursuing open access approaches to scholarly communication, the new issue has a dedicated section of peer-reviewed contributions focused on open access in the journal publishing realm.

I am happy be one of the contributors to this section. Ryan Anderson and I revised and updated an earlier interview on open access that we did together. We calibrated the new version to contemporary circumstances, included specific discussions of the Cultural Anthropology case, and sketched a critical anthropology of contemporary scholarly communications practices. It was exciting not only to revise the interview but to improve it on the basis of appreciated peer-review. We think of the piece as an experiment in genre too, as the interview was a textual co-construction in which we revised and altered each others’ words with the goal of creating the most useful resource that we could. It began as a true interview, but did not end there. (In this, its inspiration was an earlier Cultural Anthropology piece on open access “Cultural Anthropology of/in Circulation.”) The interview’s primary function among the other pieces is as an introduction to open access practices. We hope that it is useful in this role. We appreciate everyone who has already expressed kind appreciation for the piece.

There are many great pieces in the open access section (see list below). I am only now reading the other articles in the issue. Charles’ Briggs’s “Dear Dr. Freud” is compelling.

A key thing about the way that the Society for Cultural Anthropology is doing its journal and website is that the site is a rich hub for content both in support of the journal and extending well beyond it. Articles are often richly supplemented with interviews, images, and media and there are also opinion pieces, shorter works, photo galleries and much additional content. While Chris Kelty is present in the open access section of the journal, I want to call attention to his even newer opinion piece, which was published today. In it, he makes a strong case for the adoption of Creative Commons licenses for Cultural Anthropology going forward. I share his views.

There is lots to read in the new issue. Here are the open access pieces.

I really like the Glossary. It allowed me to get a definition of FUD into the pages of Cultural Anthropology! (Learning the term was the only good thing about the PRISM fiasco, an episode that seems so long ago now.)

The issue is receiving a good bit of discussion on Twitter but, as so often happens, there will probably be only a tiny amount of commenting on the journal site–even though there is great infrastructure in place to allow for it. I invite everyone to prove me wrong. Be brave and leave a comment on any of the papers.

Thank you to @culanth editors Anne Allison and Charles Piot for their hard work and for including the piece that Ryan and I did. Thanks as well to @culanth Managing Editor Tim Elfenbein for his hard work on the issue.

Check Out the New Anthropod Podcast on Open Access

I really enjoyed listening to the new Anthropod podcast on open access in anthropology. Focusing on the move of Cultural Anthropology to an open access model, hosts Bascom Guffin and Jonah S Rubin have done a great job with the podcast. I urge everyone to check out their well produced conversations with Sean Dowdy (of Hau), Alex Golub (of Savage Minds and many OA discussions), Brad Weiss (past SCA President), and Timothy Elfenbein (Cultural Anthropology Managing Editor).

Find it in context here: http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/492-8-can-scholarship-be-free-to-read-cultural-anthropology-goes-open-access

On the New Volume of Museum Anthropology Review

Museum Anthropology Review (MAR) has just published a new double issue—its first themed collection. Volume 7, number 1-2 of MAR collects papers originally presented at a January 2012 workshop titled “After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge.” Hosted by the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution and funded by the (U.S.) National Science Foundation and the Understanding the American Experience and World Cultures Consortia of the Smithsonian Institution, the workshop was organized by Kimberly Christen (Washington State University), Joshua Bell (Smithsonian Institution), and Mark Turin (Yale University). The workshop brought together scholars from indigenous communities, cultural anthropology, folklore studies, ethnomusicology, linguistics, and collecting institutions to document best practices and case studies of digital repatriation in order to theorize the broad impacts of such processes in relation to: linguistic revitalization of endangered languages, cultural revitalization of traditional practices, and the creation of new knowledge stemming from the return of digitized material culture. Like the workshop itself, the peer-reviewed and revised papers collected in MAR ask how, and if, marginalized communities can reinvigorate their local knowledge practices, languages, and cultural products through the reuse of digitally repatriated materials and distributed technologies. The authors of the collected papers all have expertise in applied digital repatriation projects and share theoretical concerns that locate knowledge creation within both culturally specific dynamics and technological applications.

Find this special issue of MAR online at: http://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/mar/issue/view/233

As it has always been, MAR is an open access, peer-reviewed journal free to all readers. With volume 8, to be published in 2014, MAR is becoming the journal of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. It will continue to be published in partnership with the Indiana University Libraries with assistance from the IU Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and other partners.

2014 will bring new enhancements to MAR. To keep up with the journal, please sign up as a reader, follow it on Twitter @museanthrev, and/or like it on Facebook.

New Beginnings: Mathers Museum of World Cultures

Today I had the privilege of beginning work as Director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. I will surely write about the work of the museum extensively in the months ahead. Here I just want to thank the museum’s staff for welcoming me and thank the Indiana University administration for giving me this exceptional opportunity to do the  work that I love.

I could single out countless museum objects, collections, colleagues, goals, or aspirations to write about here, but I will use this post to acknowledge the long and important service of my predecessor Geoffrey W. Conrad. The Mathers Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and Geoff led the museum for nearly 30 of those years. The museum accomplished a tremendous amount over those three decades and it is exciting to have a chance to collaborate in building upon the solid foundation that Geoff and the staff built over the span of his long and distinguished career leading the museum.

A First Rate Podcast: Artisan Ancestors Visits the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology

A perfect example of how scholarly research in folklore and anthropology can be made accessible and interesting for a wider audience is the Artisan Ancestors podcast produced and hosted by my friend and colleague Jon Kay. (Jon is, among other roles, the Director of Traditional Arts Indiana.) If you have not yet encountered the Artisan Ancestors show, I urge you to check it out. As Jon describes it, the focus of the show is on strategies for “researching creative lives and handmade things.” Jon does interviews with people involved in such work with the goals of encouraging and guiding newcomers to such studies and of expanding the horizons of those already deeply involved. Long adept in the skills of the public folklorist, Jon has mastered the podcast genre. He is a great interviewer and he knows how to do in interview with the needs of his audience and the requirements of the medium in mind. The production values are high but it is clear that he has worked out a system that gets good results without endless, expensive work.

In his newest episode (#26) Jon interviews Dr. Candace Greene, another friend and the Director of the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA). The interview explores the purposes and goals of SIMA in a way that not only introduces this training program (for which I was a faculty member this past summer) but also encourages deeper understanding of the broader value of museum collections for research in social and cultural history. It is a great interview and listening to it will illustrate not only the value of the SIMA effort but also suggest the value of podcasting initiatives such as Artisan Ancestors. Kudos to Jon and Candace for their great job with this episode.

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