20th Century Ethnology and Empire in Comparative Perspectives

June 10, 2014
Friday, May 1, 2009 to Saturday, May 2, 2009
The Mershon Center for International Security Studies
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Organizers: Alice L. Conklin, History Department
Dorothy Noyes, Center for Folklore Studies

Presentation abstracts [pdf]

Keywords of the modern period, "race" and "culture" have persisted into the present as concepts shaping both institutional and vernacular practice. The imperialist context in which scientific representations of human difference emerged has been intensively studied. This conference examines the persistence of such representations in post-imperial states and international institutions. We compare the twentieth-century trajectories of three states torn among nationalist, imperialist, and universalist aspirations: France, the US, and China.

The conference will have two principal foci. First we examine ethnological museums, their original importance as knowledge institutions, and their contested roles today as vehicles for promoting cultural diversity. In the French and US cases, collecting expeditions and scientific exhibitions consolidated knowledge about the racial Other that could then be deployed in governing both colonial and domestic populations. In China, Mao used the "science of man" to promote a particular understanding of the Chinese as a people. In older twentieth-century museums one can thus see certain modern concepts of difference and their contradictions in microcosm. How has the representation of difference in museums of the Other changed in the last few decades?

In the wake of the Holocaust and the breakup of European empires after the Second World War, earlier concepts were reconfigured rather than erased. Our second focus will be an overall shift from "race" to "culture" as the internationally legitimate framing of human difference, which can conveniently be dated to the 1950 UNESCO Declaration on Race. Nonetheless, continuities as well as ruptures can be traced in many realms of policy and administration. Former imperial understandings influence the approach of contemporary intergovernmental organizations to difference within and among nation-states--the best case being UNESCO itself, which assumed a leadership role in both the global struggle against racism and the preservation of world cultural heritage. Other continuities may be found in individual states' mobilization of the culture concept in both domestic and foreign policy. The recent resurrection of biology as a differentiator of populations through the mapping of the human genome poses further complications. How has "scientific" expertise been deployed in all these cases, both with and against the wishes of social scientists themselves?

While the questions we address are not new, they are also nowhere near being settled: the conversation on race and culture requires continual updating. We pay special attention to the paired historical trajectories of empire as a political model and ethnology as an academic discipline, both discredited in the course of the twentieth century but subject to revival and revaluation. Moreover, we enrich the conversation with a dual comparative framework. We look at three of the twentieth and twenty-first century's most powerful state actors in different phases of decline and ascendancy, approached from the perspective of four intertwined disciplines: history, anthropology/folklore, political science, and geography.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Part 1: Museums: Representing Difference8:30-9 am – Coffee

9 am – Welcome

Alice L. Conklin, Dorothy Noyes, and Richard Herrmann

9:30 – 10:45 am – From Physical to Cultural Anthropology?

Tracy Teslow, History, University of Cincinnati: "Race: Bodies and Cultures in Pre-WWII American Anthropology"
Alice L. Conklin, History, The Ohio State University: "From Race to Culture? The Musée de l'Homme and the UNESCO 1950 Race Statement"
Sigrid Schmalzer, History, University of Massachusetts: "'Our Ancestor, Peking Man' and the Legacy of 'All the World Is One Human Family' in China, 1949-2009"

10:45-11 am – Coffee Break

11 am-12:15 pm – Comment and Discussion

David Horn, Comparative Studies, The Ohio State University

Douglas Crews, Anthropology, The Ohio State University

12:15-2 pm – Lunch at Mershon

2–3:15 pm – The Effervescence of Culture: New Museums

Kirk Denton, East Asian Languages and Literature, The Ohio State University: "'Ethnic Minorities' and 'Aborigines': Museums and the Construction of 'Ethnic' Identities in the People's Republic of China and Taiwan"

Christian Bromberger, Ethnology, Université de Provence: "From 'Race' to 'Beauty' via 'Culture': Museographic Trajectories in French Ethnology"

Nancy J. Parezo, Anthropology, American Indian Studies, University of Arizona: "Asserting Sovereignty and Cultural Autonomy: The Museum of the American Indian and Tribal Museums in the United States"

3:15-3:45 pm – Coffee Break

3:45-5 pm – Comment and Discussion

Jason Baird Jackson, Folklore Institute, Indiana University-Bloomington; editor,Museum Anthropology

Steven Conn, History, The Ohio State University

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Part 2: Policy: Administering Difference

Please note: Travel to the Mershon Center on Saturday morning may be affected by street closings for the Capital City Half-Marathon. A map of the race can be foundonline. Please plan travel accordingly.

9-9:30 am -- Coffee

9:30-10:45 am -- Categories and Control in Contemporary Multi-Ethnic States

Paul Silverstein, Anthropology, Reed College: "The Politics of Race in the Southern Moroccan Oases: Colonial Elaborations and Postcolonial Developments"

Rohit Negi, Geography, The Ohio State University: "Development, Ethnicity, and the (Post)colonial Logic of Citizenship in Zambia"

Katherine Palmer Kaup, Political Science, Furman University: "From Wei Baqun to Rebiya Kadeer: Representing Minorities in the PRC"

10:45–11:00 am -- Coffee Break

11-12 pm -- Comment and Discussion

Kwaku Korang, African and African-American Studies, The Ohio State University

12–1 pm -- Lunch at Mershon

1-2 pm -- International Reconstruction of Race and Culture since World War II: The United States, United Nations, and UNESCO

Michelle Brattain, History, Georgia State: "Blood, Genes, and History: The Modern Construction of Race"

Dorothy Noyes, Folklore, The Ohio State University, "Culture as Cover: Imperial Self-Expression in the Neoliberal Moment"

2-3 pm -- Comment and Discussion

Kevin Boyle, History, The Ohio State University

Leo Coleman, Comparative Studies, The Ohio State University

Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Colleges of Arts and Humanities, Center for Folklore Studies, Department of History, and Department of Anthropology.

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