26 April 2019

‘Such intimate relations’: on the process of collecting string figures and the paradigm of participant observation fieldwork

The inaugural Kings College Australian National Fellows Seminar is taking place on Wednesday 8 May 2019, 18:00 – 20:00 BST

Kings College London Bush House
Bush House South East
Room (SE) 101

Dr. Robyn McKenzie  will speak on ‘Such intimate relations’: on the process of collecting string figures and the paradigm of participant observation fieldwork

She writes:

The publication of Haddon and Rivers’ article “A method of recording string figures and tricks” in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute Man in 1902, led to a knowledge of a few types, and ability to record others becoming part of the anthropologist’s tool kit. Haddon attributed much of his fieldwork success to his knowledge of string figures as a medium for interacting with people and creating rapport. This paper focuses on his 1914 trip to the Torres Strait and New Guinea with his daughter Kathleen, and her account of her own experiences collecting string figures in the unpublished manuscript ‘An English Girl in New Guinea’. On this trip the Haddons visited Malinowski, then on the island of Mailu, occasioning a comparison between the two men’s approaches in the field.

I argue that the practice of collecting string figures in many ways confounds distinctions that are made between the surface ethnography of the nineteenth century survey approach to fieldwork and the depth of the intensive study as it developed into the classical paradigm of participant observation in the twentieth century. By looking at just what was involved in collecting string figures I show how it pre-empts the ‘somatic turn’ in anthropology of the 1980s when Michael Jackson for example recommended ‘using one’s body in the same way as others in the same environment’ as a ‘methodological strategy’ for mediating anthropological insights. Above all, I argue, it established an immediate intimacy of relationship—a mutual sympathy—the sought-after goal of the participant observation method.

Dr. Robyn McKenzie is a Research Fellow in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University in Canberra. She initially trained in Art History at the University of Melbourne. She has published extensively on contemporary Australian art. She was art critic on The Age newspaper in Melbourne for a number of years in the mid-1990s and from 1996–2002, was editor of LIKE, Art Magazine. Her PhD, completed in 2016, looked at a collection of mounted string figures made in Yirrkala in north-east Arnhem Land in 1948, that is in the Australian Museum, Sydney. Robyn is currently the inaugural Australian National Fellow at the Menzies Australia Institute, King’s College, London.

10 April 2019

MEG Committee posts

We need people to put themselves forward for two Committee posts, Secretary and Membership Officer. 

MEG is run by a committee elected by members at the AGM. There will be two vacancies falling due this year.   If you would like to be more involved in MEG we would be happy to hear from you.  All that is needed is an enthusiasm for museum ethnography, knowledge and concerns for the issues affecting the sector and a willingness to be involved. 

The MEG Committee can have eight elected members, and the Committee can co-opt an additional three members.  We meet three times a year, usually in London.  Members without institutional support can claim expenses for attending meetings.

Of the current Committee, the Chair, Treasurer, Events Officer and Web Officer all continue their term of office and are not up for election or re-election this year, ditto two committee members.

Due to work pressures, the Secretary and Membership Officer are standing down, so replacements are needed.  Polly Bence will take over as interim Membership Officer, but we do need a Secretary and a Membership Officer.

The Committee has these two elected vacancies to fill.  Any volunteers, please?  Both are vital to the running of MEG.  The posts are for a three-year term in the first instance, with the Secretary being eligible for two further terms if they are willing, and the Membership Officer for a further one term.

There are two proposals for the Committee – Adam Jaffer and Sushma Jansari.  Neither can take on the officer roles at the moment, which should be elected, so it is proposed that they be co-opted for a three-year term.

MEG relies on members to keep it running and keep it relevant, so please consider putting yourself forward. 

sue giles
Chair MEG

9 April 2019

Call for Papers: “Museums Different,” Second Biennial Conference of the Council for Museum Anthropology

Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Dates: September 19 – September 21, 2019
Deadlines: June 1, 2019 midnight MST

The Council for Museum Anthropology’s second biennial conference will take place in Santa Fe, New Mexico from Thursday, September 19th through Saturday, September 21st, 2019. Using the unique position of Santa Fe -- the “City Different” -- as a starting point for thinking broadly about both local and global approaches to museum anthropology, the conference theme is “Museums Different.” We will build off the theme and conversations from our first conference, “Museum Anthropology Futures,” held in May 2017 at Concordia University in Montreal.

**Please take note of the conference’s date change.**

The conference is based on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill, home to both the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology and the Museum of International Folk Art. The conference includes sessions and activities at the Institute of American Indian Arts as well as an evening reception at the School for Advanced Research.

Call for Papers: Join CMA as we discuss imagined and practical realities of collaboration between anthropology, museums, and communities. With the goal of overcoming institutional silences and so-called mute collections, this conference is about the spaces between the objects on museum shelves and the communities who created them.  The conference will focus on how institutions can close the gaps between the theoretical and ‘doing.’

We welcome proposals and submissions from museum practitioners, scholars, students, Tribal Historic Preservation officers, artists, and all community members. If you are unsure if you or your work would fit into our conference, please reach out and ask. We are more than happy to talk you through your ideas. 

Session Formats & Proposals: We are looking to highlight innovative ways of presenting anthropological museum work, and are particularly interested in ways in which your presentation format can contribute to community engagement. Please send us ideas for innovative ways to express your research -- whether it be artist dialogues, roundtables, posters, pop-up exhibitions, workshops, pre-circulated papers, Pecha-Kucha-style sessions, problem-solving sessions, installation works, or anything else you can think of. Nothing is too bold -- we will do our best to accommodate your ideas.

Focus: Sessions should explore the imagined and the realities of working between anthropology, museums, and communities. Proposals do not have to respond to the below questions. We are excited to hear how anthropology works where you are. 

        What work have we already completed?  How does engagement with the histories of museum anthropology affect our work? How does it make it better or worse? How can we mobilize our institutional pasts to inform and better our community futures?
        What are the ways in which museum anthropology can better collaborate with communities? How can we and do we live up to our ideals?

        What does collaboration mean in a day-to-day sense?

        What are the unintended consequences of collaborative, community-based museum anthropology?
        What does decolonizing work mean to you, to your collaborators, and in your contexts?
        What might we stop doing? What hasn’t worked?
Registration and Cost: Registration will open in the coming weeks, and will be available on our soon-to-launch conference website. The conference fee is $125 per person, $60 per student, and $60 per THPO Office.

Funding Opportunities: The Council for Museum Anthropology has limited funding available for student travel. We are offering three grants of $400 each. To apply, please send us a resume/CV and a 500 word statement demonstrating how attendance at the conference will advance your academic or professional goals.

Submission Guidelines and Deadlines: Submissions must be no more than 100 words. All proposals and funding applications are due on June 1, 2019 midnight MST. Applicants will be notified by July 15, 2019. To submit, please send your proposal and preferred presentation format to cmaconference2019@gmail.com. Please submit your proposal and preferred presentation format the body of the email, rather than as an attachment.

About CMA: A section of the American Anthropological Association, the Council for Museum Anthropology is an all-volunteer membership organization that serves anthropologists and museum professionals. CMA’s mission is to foster the development of anthropology in the context of museums and related institutions. See the CMA’s website (https://museumanthropology.org) and blog (https://www.museumanthropologyblog.com) for more information.