Recent years have seen a growing interest among museum practitioners, as well as the greater German public, in the history of objects acquired in colonial contexts. This turn to colonial objects forms part of a broader shift in the status accorded to colonialism in Germany’s memory culture. Long neglected or wilfully ignored, Germany has for a long time been reluctant to accept the responsibilities arising from the nation’s colonial past.
Objects and specimens collected in the colonial era have a particular role to play in this process, as demonstrated, for instance, by the heated discussions around the current reassessment and relocation of some of Berlin’s ethnological and ethnographic collections, which are to be housed, as of 2019, in the Humboldt Forum in Mitte. In this context, questions are being asked about the legal context of the objects’ acquisition and their adequate management by museum staff and researchers. How are such items to be cared for and stored? How, if at all, should they be made accessible to the public, and possibly displayed? Should they be returned? And there is a slowly growing understanding of the kind of complicated ongoing connections and obligations that these objects might establish between European collecting institutions and Indigenous communities today.
It might seem slightly eccentric to raise the issue of natural history collections within the context of these debates about the legacy of German colonialism and the attendant politics of collection, display and repatriation. Nevertheless, I want to situate natural history objects within such a framework for two reasons that foreground the entanglements of humans and non-human objects in our social histories. Continue reading
What kind of knowledge do we have to define in order to initiate a decolonial university? In her contribution to the “Pluralising Practices” debate, Katrin Köppert takes this question as a starting point to discuss the project “DE_colonize Uni_VERSITY”.
After the interrogation of pluralising activist and artistic practices, Hongwei Bao cautions against an uncritical celebration of pluralising practices without taking into consideration its neoliberal conditions for both academics and cultural workers in his contribution to the second instalment of the “pluralising practices” debate.
Contemporary cities generate waste of various kinds on a scale that is often difficult to imagine and comprehend. Yet cities are also key sites for innovative practices of reuse, recycling and re-purposing. Through such cultures of renewal, waste products not only acquire a new value and function, but they also become entangled in new social relations, material practices and urban forms. Although waste is generally understood as the mundane, worthless, redundant and discarded afterwards of how we live our lives, this project takes as a starting point the fact that we spend a good amount of time in our ‘ordinary’ lives managing waste, and that the problem of how we manage waste is at the heart of environmental crisis and the development of more sustainable futures. Building on research in waste studies, and premised on the analytic importance of exploring that which is rejected, this project recognizes waste as a dynamic category that needs to be understood in relation to the urban contexts in which it is most commonly found and transformed, and the relationships in which it is embedded.
The workshop brings together scholars from Australia and Germany within the fields of cultural and urban studies to investigate the diverse cultural phenomenon that is waste, the urban infrastructures that were designed to eliminate waste in the name of hygiene and technical efficiency but which are now in crisis, and the range of amateur and DIY urbanisms that are retooling waste in new and innovative ways.
For more information, please contact Anja Schwarz.
criticalhabitations opens the second debate on: the posthuman present.
Introduced by Alexander Dunst, the debate features contributions by James Burton who returns to the writing of Philip K. Dick to question our understanding of the android and the human and Fabienne Collignon, who takes up Burton’s inquiry into human versus posthuman to seek an escape from the latter’s violence in a poetic inhumanity.