UCLA » College » Social Sciences » Anthropology
May 9, 2019
12:15pm to 1:45pm
Haines 352 Reading Room

This talk considers productive partnerships between museums and local communities whose sense of ontological security and well-being has been severely assaulted. I give particular attention to how creative acts of bricolage involving physical objects, collaboratively curated by museum staff and community members, may gradually ameliorate experiences of violation and help catalyze claims to the city and to bodily integrity. Under certain circumstances, museum-community partnerships can help catalyze processes of what might be termed restorative placemaking, re-forging meaningful bonds between persons and locality. These processes, I suggest, work by emulating deep structures of ritual, by circulating or projecting meaning-bearing objects in arresting ways across normally distinct cultural domains. In so doing, they help remodel core experiences of place, personhood, and belonging.  I consider case studies in which museums have grappled with moral challenges close to home, including facing up to legacies of slavery on a college campus, the threatened mass eviction of a low-income neighborhood, and honoring the stories of homeless community members. I give particular attention to the recently opened major exhibition at the Michigan State University Museum, “Finding our Voice: Sister Survivors Speak,” collaboratively co-curated with the sister survivors of the largest case of mass sexual abuse in the history of American higher education.  What lessons have been learned and how might we, together, chart productive pathways forward?

Mark Auslander (PhD, University of Chicago, 1997) is Director of the MSU Museum and Associate Professor of Anthropology and History. He works at the intersection of ritual practice, aesthetics, environmental transformation, kinship, and political consciousness in Sub-Saharan Africa and the African Diaspora. Dr. Auslander’s Africanist work on kinship, aesthetics, place-making, and political cosmology informs his scholarship on race and cultural politics in the African Diaspora and North America. His award winning book, The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding an American Family (University of Georgia Press, 2011) re-reads American racial politics under slavery and post-slavery. His extensive curatorial experience includes exhibitions on topics ranging from slavery, liberation, and memory in university settings to contemporary African Diaspora art to explorations of sexual violence and artistic mediations of armed conflict.

CPSC is concerned with a broad range of issues in sociocultural anthropology. As the name of the group suggests, we are particularly interested in how the workings of culture, and of different forms of power and inequality, play out in the contemporary world. And behind these two issues are questions of social change, that is, of the ways in which the rapidly changing world of today impacts people’s lives, and in turn, how people in different circumstances seek to bring about change in the world. CPSC I hosts talks by both in-house faculty members and visiting post-doctoral and faculty level scholars; CPSC II hosts talks by advanced graduate students. All CPSC events are open only to UCLA faculty, students, and invited guests.