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Material Practices in Museum Anthropology

Semester and Year SP 2018
Course Number ELEC-GG2685
Section 001
Instructor Eugenia Kisin
Days W
Time 9:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Units 4
Level G


Same as MSMS-GA 3330 005. Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of the instructor (


How have museums shaped the theoretical, practical, and political concerns of anthropology as a discipline? Why does anthropology in museums matter now? In this course, we will explore these questions through an engagement with material practices of museum anthropology, broadly defined as acts of assembling, interpreting, caring for, circulating, and displaying the material world. Beginning with a history of museums in relation to anthropology in the “museum age” of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries in Europe and North America, we will consider the complex colonial and modernist legacies of these institutions, and how they have shaped pervasive ideas about objects and subjects of display. Centering critical Indigenous perspectives, we will expand on the contemporary roles and relations of museum anthropology amidst globalization, environmental crisis, digital futures, and decolonization. Maintaining a materialist approach to museums as sites of cultural production, we will ask how and why innovations in museology are shifting the terms of access to and control of significant objects and stories. Through museum visits, students will explore a variety of methods for conducting anthropological research in and on museums and material culture. Alongside shorter texts by anthropologists, historians, curators, and artists, we will read several recent books on material practices in museums, which may include James Clifford’s  Returns,  Cara Krmpotich’s  The Force of Family , and Amy Lonetree’s  Decolonizing Museums .


All Syllabi

Course Type

Graduate Electives (ELEC-GG)