Ethnographic fieldwork, colonial governmentality, and the ‘dance of agency’
This chapter focuses on New Zealand’s Pacific colonies of the Cook Islands and Sāmoa, drawing on material culture studies and actor network theory to trace the relations between scientific activities and colonial governmentality. The focus here is on the collaboration and critical engagement of Māori politicians Māui Pōmare and Āpirana Ngata with government machinery in Wellington and with local people in Sāmoa. This is revealed through the correspondence between Ngata, directly involved in New Zealand’s Pacific colonies, and ‘homegrown’ anthropologist Peter Buck (Te Rangihiroa), engaged in ethnographic research in the Pacific. While the gathering of data in the field was directly related to the assembling and governing of New Zealand’s empire, the ‘dance of agency’ simultaneously produced a platform for Native survival and development within the nation and empire.
This chapter presents detailed empirical evidence of Maori participation, which shows that, by engaging with museums, they saw themselves as partners in colonial development and not merely as victims of it. Maori participation in museums and exhibitions was therefore part of an overall strategy to become part of the nation, the empire and the modern world. The chapter reviews the international literature, which calls for a more historicised approach to museums and empire, and New Zealand research which points to the specific local experience of empire as a 'middle ground' between coloniser and colonised. Makereti's troupe including some well-known chiefs and carvers travelled to London for the Festival of Empire, where T. E. Donne was now working in the New Zealand Trade Commission. The Better Britain of the South Pacific was 'more British than the British' but frequently presented itself with Maori symbolism to distinguish itself from other colonies.
What is the future of curatorial practice? How can the relationships between Indigenous people in the Pacific, collections in Euro-American institutions and curatorial knowledge in museums globally be (re)conceptualised in reciprocal and symmetrical ways? Is there an ideal model, a ‘curatopia’, whether in the form of a utopia or dystopia, which can enable the reinvention of ethnographic museums and address their difficult colonial legacies? This volume addresses these questions by considering the current state of the play in curatorial practice, reviewing the different models and approaches operating in different museums, galleries and cultural organisations around the world, and debating the emerging concerns, challenges and opportunities. The subject areas range over native and tribal cultures, anthropology, art, history, migration and settler culture, among others. Topics covered include: contemporary curatorial theory, new museum trends, models and paradigms, the state of research and scholarship, the impact of new media and current issues such as curatorial leadership, collecting and collection access and use, exhibition development and community engagement. The volume is international in scope and covers three broad regions – Europe, North America and the Pacific. The contributors are leading and emerging scholars and practitioners in their respective fields, all of whom have worked in and with universities and museums, and are therefore perfectly placed to reshape the dialogue between academia and the professional museum world.
Conal McCarthy, Arapata Hakiwai and Philipp Schorch
This volume argues that curatorship may be ‘recalled’ and remade through collaborative relationships with communities leading to experiments in curatorial theory and practice. What can museums of ethnography in the Americas and Europe learn from the experience of nations where distinctive forms of Indigenous museology are emerging and reshaping the conventions of curatorial practice? In addressing this question, this chapter draws on research by the authors, including interviews with Māori curators, museum professionals, academics and community leaders throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, exploring connections with the wider Pacific and the world. In doing so, it focuses on the ‘figure of the kaitiaki’, the Māori ‘guardian’, as a particular local development of the ‘figure of the curator’. It concludes that museums across the world can learn from Pacific experiments and become active agents in shaping cultural revival and future potentialities on a global scale.