Curating the uncommons
Taking care of difference in museums
in Curatopia
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Current ontological critiques point to how discourses of diversity like multiculturalism help domesticate difference by making it fit into predetermined categories, such as those we are accustomed to thinking of as cultures. These ways of conceiving relations within and between groups of people – common to anthropology and museums, as well as to liberal democratic regimes of governance – assert that differences between peoples are relatively superficial in that our cultures overlay a fundamental and universal sameness. Museums showcasing cultural artefacts have thus helped domesticate difference by promoting world-making visions of (natural) unity in (cultural) diversity. Yet some artefacts exceed the categories designed to contain them; they oblige thought and handling beyond the usual requirements of curatorial practice. This chapter considers the challenges of ‘curating the uncommons’ in relation to work carried out by and with the Māori tribal arts management group Toi Hauiti and their ancestor figure, Paikea, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Curatopia

Museums and the future of curatorship

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