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Refocusing Ethnographic Museums through Oceanic Lenses

Philipp Schorch (author) Noelle M.K.Y. Kahanu (contributions by)
Sean Mallon (contributions by)
Mara Mulrooney (contributions by)
Cristián Moreno Pakarati (contributions by)
Ty P. KÄwika Tengan (contributions by)
Nina Tonga (contributions by)

ISBN: 9780824881177

Publication Date: Apr 2020

Format: Hardback

Sets out to offer insights into Indigenous museologies across Oceania to recalibrate ethnographic museums, collections, and practices through Indigenous Oceanic approaches and perspectives.

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Refocusing Ethnographic Museums through Oceanic Lenses offers a collaborative ethnographic investigation of Indigenous museum practices in three Pacific museums located at the corners of the so-called Polynesian triangle: Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Hawai‘i; Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; and Museo Antropológico Padre Sebastián Englert, Rapa Nui. Since their inception, ethnographic museums have influenced academic and public imaginations of other cultural-geographic regions, often resulting Euro-Americentric projection of anthropological imaginations has come under intense pressure, as seen in recent debates and conflicts around the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, Germany. At the same time, (post)colonial renegotiations in former European and American colonies, such as the cases in this book, have initiated dramatic changes to anthropological approaches through Indigenous museum practices. The book shapes a dialogue between both situations–Euro-Americentric myopia and Oceanic perspectives–by offering historically informed, ethnographic insights into Indigenous museum practices grounded in Indigenous epistemologies, ontologies, and cosmologies. In doing so, the book employs Oceanic lenses that help to reframe Pacific collections in, and the production of public understandings through, ethnographic museums in Europe and the Americas.

Following this line of reasoning, Refocusing Ethnographic Museums sets out to offer insights into Indigenous museologies across Oceania to recalibrate ethnographic museums, collections, and practices through Indigenous Oceanic approaches and perspectives. This, in turn, should assist any museum scholar and professional in rethinking and redoing their respective institutional settings, intellectual frameworks, and museum processes when dealing with Oceanic affairs; and, more broadly, in doing the "epistemic work" needed to confront "coloniality," not only as a political problem or ethical obligation, but "as an epistemology, as a politics of knowledge." A distinctive feature is the book's layered coauthorship and multi-vocality, drawing on a collaborative approach that has put the (widespread) philosophical commitment to dialogical inquiry into (seldom) practice by systematically co-constituting ethnographic knowledge. In doing so, the book shapes an "ethnographic kaleidoscope," proposing the metaphor of the kaleidoscope as a way of encouraging fluid ethnographic engagements to avoid the impulse to solidify and enclose differences, and remain open to changing ethnographic meanings, positions, performances, and relationships. The coauthors collaboratively mobilize Oceanic eyes, bodies, and sovereignties, thus enacting an ethnographic kaleidoscopic process and effect aimed at refocusing ethnographic museums through Oceanic lenses.


Refocusing Ethnographic Museums through Oceanic Lenses is distinctive for its layered coauthorship. It offers an important and potentially influential model, striking a balance between the single-authored volume and the edited collection, attractively bringing forward genuine multi-vocality, and the distinctive expertise of those bringing specific Indigenous perspectives/analyses/concepts, yet with a far more robust structure and coherence than the typical edited book.
Illustrations 8 colour, 34 black & white illustrations
Pages 316
Dimensions 229 x 152
Date Published 30 Apr 2020
Publisher University of Hawaii Press
Subject/s Archaeology   Museums & museology   Art styles not defined by date   Australasian & Pacific history   International relations  
Philipp Schorch is head of research, State Ethnographic Collections Saxony, Germany, and honorary fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, Australia.

Sean Mallon is of Samoan and Irish descent and is Senior Curator Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. He is the author of Samoan Art and Artists (2002) and co-edited Pacific Art Niu Sila: The Pacific dimension of contemporary New Zealand arts (2002) Tatau: Samoan tattoo, New Zealand art, global culture (2010) and Tangata o le Moana: the story of New Zealand and the people of the Pacific (2012). His exhibitions include Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth (with Maud Page) (2009); Tangata o le Moana (2007), Voyagers: discovering the Pacific and Tatau/Tattoo (2002). He has been a council member of The Polynesian Society since 2008.

Mara Mulrooney is director of cultural resources at Bishop Museum.

Ty P. Kwika Tengan is associate professor of ethnic studies and anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mnoa.

Nina Tonga is Curator Pacific Art at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

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