Public programs facilitate dialogue between academics and professionals, informing scholarship and strengthening practice.

Multiple day conferences, year-long colloquia, individual lectures, “conversations” between individuals, hands-on workshops, and Museums at Noon talks featuring our graduate students all contribute to the remarkable richness of MSP offerings.

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The Emperor’s New Ethnography: Debates at the Musée africain de Lyon

September 25, 2015 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Abigail Celis (PhD candidate, French Language and Literature)

How do you do new ethnography with old tools?

Ethnographic museums, in the past two decades, have been dancing a funny limbo. The academic fields that shaped them have abandoned many of the methods and primary assumptions that were once the raison d’être for these museums. The regimes of imperial power that founded them have been, perhaps not fully dismantled, but heavily deconstructed. And the communities they once spoke for are increasingly able to make demands on the institutions that purport to represent them.

Though many museums recognize these changes, unless they are able to immediately undertake massive renovation and acquisition projects, they are nonetheless saddled with collections and displays that served previous regimes of knowledge and power. In my MSP internship at the Musée africain de Lyon, I was able to observe first-hand a museum that was grappling with how to convert its collections and displays into something that could meet contemporary demands and interests in an ethically and academically sound manner. This talk outlines how these debates took shape in this particular museum context, and traces how they are tied to larger questions about why and if museums need objects.


September 25, 2015
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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University of Michigan Museum of Art, First Floor, Multi-Purpose Room
525 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 United States
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