Dialog und Austausch


Online: Les jeudis de l’Institut historique allemand

Dan Hicks, Necrography: Museum Collections and Colonial Violence Beyond the Paradigm of Life-histories

  • Vortrag 20. und 21. Jahrhundert
  • 18:00 Uhr (03.12.) - 20:00 Uhr (03.12.)
  • DHIP

Vortrag im Rahmen der Reihe »Les jeudis de l’Institut historique allemand«

Dan Hicks (Universität Oxford) spricht in seinem Vortrag, Necrography: Museum Collections and Colonial Violence Beyond the Paradigm of Life-histories, über das Beispiel der Benin Bronzen.

Kommentar: Lotte Arndt (École supérieure d’art et design, Valence) 

Vortrag mit Simultanübersetzung (Englisch/Französisch).

Für die Teilnahme am Vortrag können Sie sich hier anmelden: Zoom

On Necrography
There perhaps is no more familiar idiom in the fields of art history, archaeology, anthropology, and museum and heritage studies, than that of the »life-history« of the object. Central to the cultural turn of the 1980s were the twin, allied ideas of context and reception. Whether in Arjun Appadurai’s formulation of »the social life of things«, published 34 years ago in 1986, or the more ethnographically-framed »cultural biography of objects« witnessed in the 90s, the analogy of artefactual histories with human lives has become deeply embedded in the cross-disciplinary study of material culture, to the extent that some theories of »material agency« and »actor-networks« have blurred conceptual lines between people and things.

This talk questions the limits and utility of the idea of object life histories by considering how they have served to silence histories of dispossession, of loss, of death – in the context of the taking of African art and heritage under colonialism and its continued possession and display in European museums. Do these displays gift to these objects a new context, an additional layer in their life histories, further layers of meanings? Or in cases where the return of objects is demanded but remain, are museums technologies through which meaning, value and life is reduced, for as long as they remain in Europe. This »Euro-pessimism« requires of us a new conceptual framework, offered here, through an extension of Achille Mbembe’s inversion of Foucauldian biopolitics – the »necropolitical« – to the question of object biography and its obverse – the curatorial work of necrography and the knowledge that flows from it – necrology.

Through the example of the Benin Bronzes, and The Brutish Museums as a necrological exercise, place of necrography in the future of material culture studies, and the urgent reckoning with Europe’s ongoing colonial past, will be considered.

Dan Hicks FSA is Professor of Contemporary Archaeology at the University of Oxford, Curator of World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum and a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford. He was Visiting Professor at the musée du quai Branly in 2017–18, and was awarded the Rivers Medal of the Royal Anthropological Society in 2017. Dan’s new book, The Brutish Museums: the Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution is published by Pluto Press on 5 November 2020, and is described by Ben Okri OBE as »a startling act of conscience«, by The Economist as »a real game-changer«, by the Guardian as »beautifully written and carefully argued«, and by the Sunday Times as »destined to become an essential text«. Twitter: @ProfDanHicks

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