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Week 18: Collecting Empire

Museums played an increasingly important role in institutionalizing anthropology and ethnology from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Following our visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, this session will consider the relationship between material culture and racial ideology in past and present contexts. Using Pitt-Rivers’ collection as a starting point, we will explore the justifications for collecting, organizing, and displaying the artifacts—and occasionally the physical remains—of peoples around the world. [Group 1] [Group 2]

Discussion Questions:

-How did the idea of 'cultural evolution' interact with the idea of 'physical evolution'?

-What role did museums play in bolstering the disciplinary development of anthropology and ethnology?

-Is it defensible to continue to display ethnological artifacts originally collected to present certain cultures as ‘less evolved’ than others?

Required Readings:

*William Ryan Chapman, 'Arranging Ethnology: AHLF Pitt Riers and the Typologial Tradition,' in George W. Stocking Jr (ed.), Objects and Others: Essays on Museums and Material Culture (University of Wisconsin, 1985), pp.15-48 [e-book]

*Nelia Dias, 'The visibility of difference: nineteenth-century French anthropological collections’, in MacDonald, Sharon (ed.), The Politics of Display: Museums, Science, Culture (London, 1998) [extracts]

*David van Keuren, 'Museums and Ideology: Augustus Pitt-Rivers and Social Change in Later Victorian Britain,' Victorian Studies 28 (1984), pp. 171-189 [e-journal]

**A.H.L.F. Pitt Rivers, 'Typological Museums, as Exemplified by the Pitt-Rivers Museum at Oxford,' Journal of the Society of Arts 40 (1891), pp. 115-122 [e-journal]

Further Readings:

Tony Bennett, Pasts Beyond Memory: Evolution, Museums, Colonialism (New York, 2004)

Alice L. Conklin, In the Museum of Man: Race, Anthropology, and Empire in France, 1850-1950 (Ithaca, 2013), ‘Ch.4: Skulls on Display: Antiracism, Racism, and Racial Science,’ pp. 145-188.

Nelia Dias, ‘Looking at Objects: Memory, Knowledge in Nineteenth-century Ethnographic Displays’, in Robertson, George et al (eds.), Travellers’ Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement (Routledge, 1994)

Elizabeth Edwards, Raw Histories: Photographs, Anthropology and Museums (Oxford, 2001)

Elizabeth Edwards, Chris Gosden and Ruth B. Phillips (eds.), Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture (Berg, 2006) [e-book]

Chris Gosden and Frances Larson (eds.) Knowing Things: Exploring the Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum, 1884-1945 (Oxford, 2007)

Curtis M. Hinsley, Savages and Scientists: the Smithsonian Institution and the Development of American Anthropology, 1846-1910 (Washington, 1981)

Elise Juzda, ‘Skulls, science and the spoils of war: craniological studies at the United States Army Medical Museum, 1868-1900’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 40 (2009), 156-167.

Martin Legassick and Ciraj Rassool, Skeletons in the Cupboard: South African Museums and the Trade in Human Remains, 1907-1917 (Cape Town, 2000)

Alan G Morris, ‘Trophy skulls, museums and the San’, in Skotnes, Pippa (ed.), Miscast: negotiating the presence of the Bushmen (Cape Town, 1996), pp. 67-79

Christine Quigley, Skulls and Skeletons: Human Bone Collections and Accumulations (Jefferson, 2001)

Samuel J. Redman, The Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums (Cambridge, 2016)

Tracy Teslow, Constructing Race: The Science of Bodies and Cultures in American Anthropology (Cambridge, 2014) [e-book]

Paul Turnbull, ‘“Ramsay’s regime”: the Australian Museum and the procurement of Aboriginal bodies, c.1874-1900’, Aboriginal History, 15 (1991), 108-121.