Contesting Knowledge


Contesting Knowledge

Museums and Indigenous Perspectives

Edited by Susan Sleeper-Smith

374 pages
14 photos, 3 maps


July 2009


$35.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

This interdisciplinary and international collection of essays illuminates the importance and effects of Indigenous perspectives for museums. The contributors challenge and complicate the traditionally close colonialist connections between museums and nation-states and urge more activist and energized roles for museums in the decades ahead.
The essays in section 1 consider ethnography’s influence on how Europeans represent colonized peoples. Section 2 essays analyze curatorial practices, emphasizing how exhibitions must serve diverse masters rather than solely the curator’s own creativity and judgment, a dramatic departure from past museum culture and practice. Section 3 essays consider tribal museums that focus on contesting and critiquing colonial views of American and Canadian history while serving the varied needs of the indigenous communities.
The institutions examined in these pages range broadly from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC; the Oneida Nation Museum in Oneida, Wisconsin; tribal museums in the Klamath River region in California; the tribal museum in Zuni, New Mexico; the Museum of the American Indian in New York City; and the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa.

Author Bio

Susan Sleeper-Smith is a professor of history at Michigan State University. She is the author of Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes and the coeditor of New Faces of the Fur Trade: Selected Proceedings of the Seventh North American Fur Trade Conference.

Contributors: Kristina Ackley, Miranda J. Brady, M. Teresa Carlson, Brenda J. Child, Brian Isaac Daniels, Gwyneira Isaac, Hal Langfur, Paul Liffman, Amy Lonetree, Brenda Macdougall, Zine Magubane, Ann McMullen, Ciraj Rassool, Jennifer Shannon, Ray Silverman, Susan Sleeper-Smith, and Jacki Thompson Rand


"Regardless of one's ethnicity, affiliation or experience, museum professionals and public historians alike, especially those with little or no experience working with indigenous communities or other stakeholder audiences, will find this volume concerning an emerging aspect of museum practice valuable and worth exploring."—Kym S. Rice, Western American Literature

"Contesting Knowledge will likely remain relevant for many years as the issues the authors present are ongoing and applicable to any tribal-centered exhibition or public museum collaboration."—Charles D. Chamberlain III, Ethnohistory

"These essays demonstrate that Native peoples across North America and Africa are using museums to rectify a legacy of conquest. As such, scholars and educators in the fields of anthropology, American Indian studies, and museum studies will find this collection of essays especially useful."—Jennifer Fish Kashay, Western Historical Quarterly

"This collection is an important part of the conversations taking place in Indigenous studies and beyond."—Elizabeth Archuleta, Studies in American Indian Literatures

"This book is valuable because it contains both external and internal synopses of cultural convictions, public history motivations, and organizational conventions which operate to situate an object in its "best position.""—Alphine W. Jefferson, Public Historian

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Contesting Knowledge: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives / Susan Sleeper-Smith

Part 1: Ethnography and the Cultural Practices of Museums

Introduction: The Legacy of Ethnography  / Ray Silverman

1. Elite Ethnography and Cultural Eradication: Confronting the Cannibal in Early Nineteenth-Century Brazil / Hal Langfur

2. Ethnographic Showcases as Sites of Knowledge Production and Indigenous Resistance / Zine Magubane

3. Reinventing George Heye: Nationalizing the Museum of the American Indian and Its Collections   / Ann McMullen

4. Ethnographic Elaborations, Indigenous Contestations, and the Cultural Politics of Imagining Community: A View from the District Six Museum in South Africa / Ciraj Rassool

Part 2: Curatorial Practices: Voices, Values, Languages, and Traditions

Introduction: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives on Curatorial Practice / Jacki Thompson Rand

5. A Dialogic Response to the Problematized Past: The National Museum of the American Indian /     Miranda J. Brady

6. West Side Stories: The Blending of Voice and Representation through a Shared Curatorial Practice / Brenda Macdougall and M. Teresa Carlson

7. Huichol Histories and Territorial Claims in Two National Anthropology Museums / Paul Liffman

8. The Construction of Native Voice at the National Museum of the American Indian / Jennifer Shannon

Part 3: Tribal Museums and the Heterogeneity of the Nation-State

Introduction: Creation of the Tribal Museum / Brenda J. Child

9. Tsi<?>niyukwaliho<?>t<V'>, the Oneida Nation Museum: Creating a Space for

      Haudenosaunee Kinship and Identity / Kristina Ackley

10. Reimagining Tribal Sovereignty through Tribal History: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in the Klamath River Region / Brian Isaac Daniels

11. Responsibilities toward Knowledge: The Zuni Museum and the Reconciling of Different Knowledge Systems / Gwyneira Isaac

12. Museums as Sites of Decolonization: Truth Telling in National and Tribal Museums / Amy Lonetree / 


Index       000

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