Do 11 Jun 2015 | 15:00–20:00

Museum, Power, and Identity

Forum Transregionale Studien/Max Weber Stiftung

Ethnological Museum, Lansstraße 8/Arnimallee 25, 14195 Berlin

Press Release

The third WeberWorldCafé, “Museum, Power, and Identity”, was held on June 11, 2015 at the Museen Dahlem in cooperation with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Art historians, curators and artists discussed the implications of exhibiting non-European art and the question what stories the objects in museum collections can tell today.

The 19th and early 20th centuries are the time of the great foundations and expansions of museums in Europe. In many cases, the museum collections are closely tied to the colonial and national histories of their respective countries. The systems for ordering objects from all over the world in separate collections, for example in museums for Asian or Islamic art, in painting galleries for European art, or in ethnological museums, still play an important role today. In many cases, museums’ ordering systems reflect the national narratives of the 19th century and the myth formation of national identities. By displaying the artifacts of past cultures, on the one hand, and foreign cultures, on the other, the collections offered themselves as grand stories of the birth and progress of civilization.

How can artefacts be exhibited without falling into problematic categories like “Europe” and “the Other”? Can we make sense of the distinction between art and ethnology or art and material culture? What stories can objects in museums tell today? How can we revise the established narratives and rethink the role of museums? What are the alternative narratives, traditions and concepts?

At the WeberWorldCafé “Museum, Power, and Identity” on June 11, 2015 in the Museen Dahlem, Berlin, we discussed these and other questions at different tables with the following table hosts:

1. Identity, Language and Museum: Dr. des. Britta Hochkirchen (Universität Bielefeld), Dr. Nabila Oulebsir (University of Poitiers)

2. Cultural Heritage, Belonging and Ownership: Dr. Sophie Engelhardt (Mitarbeiterin der Staatsministerin für Kultur und Medien), Prof. Dr. Kavita Singh (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

3. Decolonizing Knowledge – Decolonizing Aesthetics: PD Dr. Paola Ivanov (Ethnological Museum Berlin), Prof. Dr. Wendy Shaw (Freie Universität Berlin)

4. The Practice of Curating: Prof. Dr. Beatrice von Bismarck (Universität Leipzig), Menno Fitski (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)

5. Object Biographies and Theory of Things: Dr. des. Verena Rodatus (Ethnological Museum Berlin), Prof. Dr. Avinoam Shalem (Columbia University)

6. Ritual and Performance: Prof. Dr. Mathias Alubafi (Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria), Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels (Universität Heidelberg)

7. Artistic Intervention: Prof. Mathilde ter Heijne (Kunsthochschule Kassel), Prof. Dr. Dorothea von Hantelmann (Kunsthochschule Kassel)

8. The Archive and the Unconscious: Dr. Mirjam Brusius (Oxford University), Monika Pessler (Sigmund Freud Museum Wien)

The WeberWorldCafé is an interactive, biannual event format of the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland and the Forum Transregionale Studien that brings together researchers and practitioners from various disciplines and regions who meet and exchange their thoughts in a relaxed, coffeehouse-like atmosphere. We particularly invite students, young scholars and the interested public.

The WeberWorldCafé “Museum, Power and Identity” was organized within the framework of Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices, a research program at the Forum Transregionale Studien, and in cooperation with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The series WeberWorldCafés (WWC) is planned and organized by Gesche Schifferdecker (Max Weber Stiftung). The WWC on “Museum, Power, and Identity” was curated by Hannah Baader (Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices/Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence) and Stefanie Rentsch (Forum Transregionale Studien).

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