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Assembling the Transpacific: Indigenous Curatorial Practices, Material Cultures and Source Communities

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Transpacific (Assembling the Transpacific: Indigenous Curatorial Practices, Material Cultures and Source Communities)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2017-04-30

The project ‘Assembling the Transpacific: Indigenous Curatorial Practices, Material Cultures and Source Communities’ has been devoted to the overall objective of producing a historically informed, ethnographic investigation of indigenous curatorship across the Pacific. As recent indigenous repatriation claims against the Humboldt Forum in Germany attest, the Eurocentric projection of anthropological imaginations has come under pressure, while postcolonial renegotiations in former European colonies, such as many South Pacific nations, have caused changes to anthropological practices through indigenous curatorial practices. This project has shaped a dialogue between both situations by offering indigenous perspectives that reframe the anthropological curatorship of Pacific collections in, and the production of public understandings through, ethnographic museums in Europe. The project has succeeded on several levels. First, six months of fieldwork have generated historically-informed, ethnographic insights into Indigenous knowledge production through museum practices and community engagement across the Pacific which offer a range of unique contributions and have formed part of numerous conference papers, seminar presentations and publications. Second, the project has also facilitated a conference at LMU Munich which has allowed indigenous curators to directly intervene in European debates and address the key question of how the relationships between indigenous people in the Pacific, collections in European institutions, and curatorial knowledge in museums globally be (re)conceptualized. Third, the project has contributed to, and significantly advanced, academic debates associated with the so-called material and ontological turns.
The project consisted of six months of fieldwork, three months each at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Museo Antropológico Sebastián Englert, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile, conducted through a methodological triangulation of archival research and oral histories as well as narrative interviews, participant observation and photography. The first stage of the fieldwork laid the historical foundation while the second stage focused on contemporary curatorship. The generated insights fed into the development of two lectures series given at the LMU as part of the author's habilitation and training objectives, and led to the following results and their dissemination:

Schorch, P., Waterton, E. & Watson S. (2017). Museum canopies and affective cosmopolitanism: Cultivating cross-cultural landscapes for ethical embodied responses. In D. Tolia-Kelly, E. Waterton & S. Watson (Eds.), Heritage, affect and emotion: Politics, practices and infrastructures (pp.93-113). London and New York: Routledge.
Hereniko, V. & Schorch, P. (2017). The canoe, the wind, and the mountain: Shunting the “Rashomon effect” of Mauna Kea. Pacific Islands Report.
Schorch, P. & Kahanu, N.M.K.Y. (2015). Forum as laboratory: The cross-cultural infrastructure of ethnographic knowledge and material potentialities. In Prinzip Labor: Museumsexperimente im Humboldt Lab Dahlem (pp.241-248). Berlin: Nicolai.
Schorch, P. & Kahanu, N.M.K.Y. (2015). Anthropology’s interlocutors: Hawai’i speaking back to Ethnographic Museums in Europe. Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften, 1, 114-117.

Convened, Invited and Refereed Conference Sessions and Presentations:
‘Crisis and critical junctures: Reimagining Oceania’ (co-convened with Ritchie, J. & Pascht, A.), German Anthropological Association Biannual Conference – Crises: Reconfigurations of Life, Power and Worlds, Marburg, Germany, September 2015
‘Decentering European Museums through transcultural collaborations: Examples from Oceania’, Discomforting Heritage: Practices and discourses of dealing with objects from colonial contexts in anthropological museums, University of Tübingen and Linden-Museum, Stuttgart, Germany, April 2017
‘Mat-Con: An introduction’ (co-presented with Saxer, M.), Connecting Materialities / Material Connectivities [mat ~ con], Center for Advanced Studies (CAS), Ludwig- Maximilians-University Munich, Germany, February 2017
‘The canoe, the wind, and the mountain: Shunting the “Rashomon Effect” of Mauna Kea’ (co-presented with Hereniko, V.), Lands, Seas, and Skies: Conversations with Science, Traditions and the Sacred, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Hawai’i, September 2016
‘Rethinking museum temporalities through Hawaiian lenses: Curatorial conversations, material languages, and indigenous skills’, Museum Temporalities: Time, History and the Ethnographic Museum, Leiden, Netherlands, November 2015
‘Curatopia: Critical perspectives’, Curatopia: Histories, Theories, Practices, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany, July 2015
‘Materializing Samoan-German Legacies’ (co-presented with Mallon S. & Tonga, N.), Museums and Their Publics at Sites of Conflicted History, Warsaw, Poland, March 2017
‘E Kū Mau Mau - Stand up together: Hawaiians, ethnographic museums and the constant crisis of representation’, German Anthropological Association Biannual Conference – Crises: Reconfigurations of Life, Power and Worlds, Marburg, Germany, September 2015
‘Globalizing Māori museology: Reconceptualizing engagement, knowledge and virtuality through mana taonga’ (co-presented with McCarthy, C. & Hakiwai, A.), New Zealand Studies Association Conference: Empires and Cultures of the Pacific, Vienna, Austria, July 2015
‘He alo a he alo / kanohi ki te kanohi / face to face: Close encounters of the curatorial kind’ (co-presented with Kahanu, N.M.K.Y & Nepia, M.), New Zealand Studies Association Conference: Empires and Cultures of the P
The progress beyond the state of the art has been demonstrated in the two international conferences convened at LMU Munich. The symposium 'Connecting Materialities / Material Connectivities [ mat~con ]' was the third event of the mat~con initiative, which aimed at collectively thinking through connectivity and materiality. The symposium set out to trace histories, dissect theories, scrutinize methodologies and contextualize ethnographies from a variety of different settings and strands of thought. The objective was to bring these threads into dialogue to work toward a conceptual frame through which connecting materialities / material connectivities can be approached, studied and understood as transcultural, transregional and global phenomena. The symposium 'Curatopia: Histories, Theories, Practices - Museums and the Future of Curatorship' brought together 82 participants from 10 countries. A group of leading curators, critics and scholars from a range of fields in international institutions gathered to think through ‘the figure of the curator’, present on critical issues in curatorial histories, theories and practices, and engage the audience in lively discussions. Both conference proceedings are further developed into major edited volumes that will make an impact upon anthropological and museum theory and practice.