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IV Ethnographic Museums: Objects, History and Transcultural Contemporaneities

Conceived and conducted by: Philippe Cordez (Head of International Junior Research Group "Premodern Objects. An Archeology of Experience", Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich)

It was not until around 1800 in Europe that the concept of the “object” came to be understood as something material, spatially confined and clearly defined. This modern and western notion is also closely connected to the scientific paradigm of “objectivity,” which has been a crucial factor in the formation process of academic disciplines and their institutions since the 19th century and was enforced far beyond Europe in the wake of imperialism and colonialism.

In this tradition “object” and “objectivity” also determine their counterparts “subject” and “subjectivity” and therefore a particular way of understanding what individuals are and how they feel. Since the word “object” signifies etymologically “what lays before [someone]”, it also implies a relation of contemporaneity with a “subject”. But if many “objects” are transformed into such especially in art galleries or museums, what are or were they in the absence of this concept? What about individual and social life without “objects”, what about past or alternative contemporaneities?

The workshop considers Ethnographic Museums in a historical perspective and aims to explore 1. the poetics and politics of objectification (of things or of persons) constitutive of “modern” contemporaneity, 2. corollary strategies of “un-objectification” or “subjectification” especially in artistic and aesthetic practices, 3. other conceptions of objecthood and experiences with things besides what has been called “modernity” and also within it.


How does the modern concept of the “object” determine individual and collective life in contemporary societies? What strategies of “objectification” or “un-objectification” of things and persons can be identified, especially in artistic and aesthetic practices and in museums? Which (cultural and epistemological) alternative conceptions of objecthood and experiences with things can be reconstructed besides and within “modernity”?

Contact: Philippe.Cordez@kunstgeschichte.uni-muenchen.de

The selected participants are:

Joshua I. Cohen

Isabelle Dolezalek

Hanna Holtz

Susanne Mersman

Verena Rodatus

Mischa Twitchin