Monday, April 24, 2017

Denver Art Museum Announces Five-Month-Long Collaborative Native Arts Artist-in-Residence Project Kicking Off in May

This May, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) Native Arts Artist-in-Residence program will feature three alumni artist residents, including Melanie Yazzie, Walt Pourier and Gregg Deal, for a one-of-a-kind collaborative project titled Action X Community X Togetherness.While their artistic styles and mediums vary, the collaboration is focused on one central theme: art as a call to action and a catalyst for change. Their exploration of this theme will drive a variety of joint projects, such as talks, tours and workshops where visitors will have the opportunity to engage with the artists through September 2017. The program launched in 2012 to highlight the ongoing creativity among Native American artists, while enlivening museum experiences and spotlighting key permanent museum collections.

Denver Art Museum
100 W. 14th Avenue Pkwy., Denver, CO 80204
May 6–Sept. 10, 2017

Public programming will take place during the following events:

Talks and art-making workshops at Untitled Final Fridays‒May 26, June 30, July 28 and Aug. 25
Demonstrations at Free First Saturdays‒May 6, June 3 and July 1
Hands-on artmaking at the Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration‒Sept. 9

About The Denver Art Museum

The Denver Art Museum is an educational, nonprofit resource that sparks creative thinking and expression through transformative experiences with art. Its holdings reflect the city and region—and provide invaluable ways for the community to learn about cultures from around the world. Metro citizens support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), a unique funding source serving hundreds of metro Denver arts, cultural and scientific organizations. For museum information, call 720-865-5000 or visit

Sunday, April 23, 2017

2016 CMA Student Travel Award Winners

AK de Morais and Sowparnika Balaswaminathan
April 17, 2017

Each year, CMA awards grants of $500 to students to support travel to present at the AAA annual meeting. This year’s Council for Museum Anthropology Board was pleased to offer travel award support to two students in the field who show creativity in their research approach, commitment to the field, and potential for broader impact in museum anthropology. They have shared their work for this month’s Section News.
AK de Morais is a PhD candidate in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, with previous degrees in Social Anthropology from the University of Cape Town. AK studies the visual and material culture of the British Empire in Africa, focusing on how ethnographic museum culture along the Cape-to-Cairo route and typological postcards have informed geographic, temporal and racial ideas of the African continent, and situating these materials as openings through which to see seemingly foreclosed futures.

Her dissertation project is an interdisciplinary analysis of imperial and anthropological region- and race-making, focusing particularly on their material manifestations on African terrain, in museums situated in and along the Cape-to-Cairo route and railway. Her dissertation thinks the Cape-to-Cairo route as significant for both enabling fantasies of the continent, and for how the infrastructure associated with it has enabled travel for scholars and tourists alike. African museums would come to be the primarily local sites through which the latter would come to “know” Africans, and African material culture the primary means through which the continent would come to be invented. Decentering anthropological text and African nations as the appropriate entry points for engaging with the continent, and the racial and spatial legacies of African knowledge formations, her project is instead oriented towards anthropological materials, broadly considered, and the region-making of the Cape-to-Cairo route and railway. Thus, her research is grounded in a study of museum exhibits, collections, expeditions and postcards, held primarily in the material culture and visual culture exhibits, collections, and anthropological archives, of museums of ethnology, ethnography, heritage and culture situated in several cities along the Cape-to-Cairo route. Her project explores how museum culture works with and resists incorporation into the place-making projects—imperial, transnational, and nationalist alike—that grand rail schemes evoke, raising critical questions about how the histories of travel, collection, cultural exchange and imperialism that have built the ethnographic museum as a concept and its exemplars across the Cape-to-Cairo route, have also built an idea of Africa.
Her presentation at the 2016 AAA Annual Meeting, Contingent Collection and Uncertain Objects: Thinking through the Smithsonian-Universal African Expedition, was drawn and developed from her introductory chapter to the dissertation, in which she unpacks the concepts and themes that ground her research and writing.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth century saw the proliferation of museum-sponsored expeditions that sought to collect footage, artifacts, and specimens to expand museum collections, and that necessarily met obstacles and challenges to their collection once in the field. These obstacles raise important questions about the African material culture accessioned from collecting expeditions, and held by research museums today, when the process of collecting has been at the least constrained, often haphazard. In this paper, I consider what such objects can still tell us, despite the uncertainties they concretize. I situate my discussions in the travels of one expeditionary group, the Smithsonian-Universal African Expedition. In August of 1919, the expedition arrived in Cape Town, to begin its traverse of the continent, to Cairo. With naturalists, cinematographers, directors and actors in tow, the group commenced a yearlong journey of scholarship, filming and collection that was, by almost all metrics, a resounding failure. This failure, unexceptional for its time, reveals entanglements with and amongst empires and imperialisms, which together signal the ways imperial practice was fundamentally concerned with the management of the contingent, unplanned and unexpected. I argue that these imperial concerns are most evident through the uncertainties in the objects collected, which open spaces from which the accidental, contingent and unintended can be grasped, and thus open too the pathways for imagining different postcolonial futures.

Sowparnika Balaswaminathan is an 8th year anthropology student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego. She studies South Asian art, artisans, museums, and ethical arts practice and has worked as an instructor of world history and argumentative writing. She is currently an Editorial Assistant for the journal, Latin American Antiquity. Her initial foray into anthropology was through working at an architectural and craft museum in Chennai called DakshinaChitra. Although her work at the museum was more on the side of art historical research and exhibition planning, she became interested in the lives and cultures of living artisan communities because of the museum’s prioritization of extant traditions over extinct practices. Currently in the process of writing her dissertation, Sowparnika continues her engagement with museum anthropology through spearheading a digital humanities project drawn from her dissertation research on South Indian artisans which aims to have a pedagogical focus.

Sowparnika’s dissertation research focuses on a contemporary sculptor community who trace their lineage, through caste and technique, to the medieval artisans of the Chola empire (9–13th century) in South India. The medieval sculptors made the South Indian bronzes such as the Nataraja, now found in older temples but also museums. The Government of India has been invested in the discourse over Indian art and craft because of their prominent role as artifacts of Indian culture and tradition and also because of the economic value they hold in terms of export and employment. The largest collection of the antique South Indian bronzes, also called Swamimalai bronzes after the current residential town of the sculptors, is at the Government Museum in Chennai, which has invested money and time in ensuring they have a separate “Bronze Gallery” under the purview of the Archaeology department. Through the exhibition and publications under the museum, there is a control of discourse on the bronzes, not to mention a control over the bronzes themselves. Sowparnika’s dissertation argues that when it comes to such discourses concerning traditional artisans (especially those who belong to an artisan caste) and their craft objects, the government and the artisans contest and negotiate narratives with different end goals in mind. While governmental institutions seek to shape political and economic values, artisans want to demonstrate an ethical position by conflating traditional arts practice with being a “proper” (good) person.

Sowparnika presented the paper, “Contesting Tradition: What is Visible and Valuable through Iconic Replication” in the 2016 AAA conference in a panel she co-organizes called “Value(s) and Replication: Evidence-Based Ethnography.” Her paper was about the iconic transactions between government museums in India, handicraft corporations that market replications of antique art, and living sculptors who create the replicas whole claiming a genealogical connection with medieval artisan communities. The South Indian bronze is a culturally significant heritage artifact for the Indian national consciousness with a history that begins in the 8th century. Various governmental museums and cultural organizations have utilized it to index India’s precolonial traditions. The Indian museums promote a narrative of tradition that is securely placed in the past by positioning bronzes as “archaeological” artifacts, cutting off living sculptors from accessing them. These sculptors residing in the Tamil town, Swamimalai, are an occupational community of artisans, some of whom trace their genealogical and caste lineage to the medieval bronzecasters who made the museum bronzes. Taking advantage of the economically thriving handicraft sector, the Swamimalai sculptors produce contemporary replicas of the antique bronzes and sell them as artistic and ethnic collectible objects, although the historical purpose of these idols has been to serve as deities in temples. Sowparnika’s paper examined the inherent contradictions of the government apparatus in its attempts to define “tradition” and the response from a traditional artisan community struggling to reclaim ownership over the same through the act of replication. Using Marx (1977) and Strathern’s (1990) notions of value as the visible, her paper used ethnographic evidence to showcase how museums circumscribe historical artifacts within their hegemonic narratives. She argued that bronzecasters make themselves visible (and valuable) through objectifying their labor by creating iconic links (Peirce 1932) with antique bronzes and thereby claiming a relationship with the medieval artisans and their bronzes.

This article originally appeared in Anthropology NewsContact CMA Secretary Diana Marsh at

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wampanoag Massasoit Returns to Original Burial Site

Cape Cod Today, April 12, 2017

"For centuries, the remains of Wampanoag Massasoit 8sâmeeqan (pronounced oosa-meek-kwan) had been scattered far and wide.

On May 13, 2017, the Wampanoag leader who signed the first treaty with the Mayflower’s Puritan pilgrims in 1621 will be repatriated to his original burial site on Burrs Hill Park overlooking Narragansett Bay.

The 20 year quest to track down the scattered remains (and artifacts) of 8sâmeeqan -- kept in collections of seven different museums -- has been led by Ramona Peters, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Director for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe; Repatriation Officers, Edith Andrews of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), Kenneth Alves of the Assonet Band of Wampanoag, and John Peters Jr. of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

“8sâmeeqan is a significant figure in our shared history,” Peters said. “He stands at the crossroad between the indigenous people of this land and the origins of what would eventually become the United States of America.”

“In the 17th century, when the Wampanoag first encountered the early settlers, 8sâmeeqan had a vision of how we could all live together. There was 50 years of peace between the English and Wampanoag until he died in 1665. That was 10 years before the King’s Phillips War, which changed the whole course of history in this country,” Peters said.

A citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe – one of two federally-acknowledged tribes who trace their roots to the confederation of Wampanoag tribes that stretched from Gloucester Bay across southeastern Massachusetts to Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island – Peters is also the coordinator of the Wampanoag Repatriation Confederation."

More here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Summer 2017 Internship Opportunity: Recovering Voices, NMNH

The Recovering Voices Program is currently accepting applications for the Recovering Voices Internship for Summer 2017! Applications due April 28, 2017.

This is an unpaid, part time internship for the summer of 2017. This opportunity provides a range of collections-related, audiovisual production, and administrative experience in a collaborative museum-community program setting. The intern will be primarily with the Recovering Voices Program Assistant for Collections in the Department of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History.

The intern will be responsible for assisting with a summer community research group and creating a follow-up digital packet to be sent to the community group coming from Oregon and who are participating in the Recovering Voices Community Research Program in 2017. The location will be primarily in the Recovering Voices Office at the National Museum of Natural History, but will also be at the National Museum of the American Indian and the collections and archives at the Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD. The weeks of the community visits may involve more than part time hours; this is flexible.

The Recovering Voices Community Research Program makes the collections and archives of the Smithsonian accessible to indigenous communities who are working on language and/or knowledge revitalization projects. Most community visits are video recorded to document the research for the community’s purposes. This particular visit will take place during the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages and the community group will partially attend lectures and events of Breath of Life. The packet the intern will be responsible for creating centers around processing of the video and associated research materials. The intern will also be responsible for assisting during the research visit. The intern will gain first-hand experience of research in archives as well as learn about the tribes and communities that are participating in the Community Research Program.


A qualified candidate will be a recent graduate or be currently enrolled in a graduate program. They should be interested in the use of museum collections and archives for research and be detail oriented. Cultural sensitivity and the ability to work with people from all backgrounds is a must. Knowledge of linguistics is not required.


There are three core learning objectives.
1. Learn about the subject of language and traditional knowledge documentation and revitalization.
2. Learn about the uses and benefits of material culture and archival resources available at the Smithsonian, and museums in general, to understand the impact of resources in museum collections on revitalization efforts.
3. Learn about audiovisual documentation, standards for archiving born-digital products, and post-production of digital video.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fellowship Opportunity: SVA/Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship Program 2017-2018

The SVA/Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowships are designed to provide graduate students working in the field of visual and multimodal anthropology with funding to pursue exploratory research for planning their doctoral dissertation research and/or methods training to prepare for their doctoral dissertation research. Research projects supported by the funding should have the potential of advancing the field of visual anthropology. Normally, fellows receive their awards after their first or second year of graduate training as they begin to develop their dissertation research projects. We expect to award up to six fellowships in 2017 with each fellow up to an amount of $6,000 depending upon need. Of the total amount granted, up to $2,500 may be used for video/film equipment.

o Fellowships are open to all graduate students without regard to citizenship or place of residence.
o Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate program at the time of application and during the period of the fellowship.
o Applicants’ proposed research must be in the field of visual anthropology, broadly defined, but they do not need to be students in departments of anthropology.
o Applicants cannot have completed more than four years of graduate education, including all institutions that they have attended.
o Applicants must be current members of the Society of Visual Anthropology (SVA), a section of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) as of April 25, 2017.

Details on joining the AAA and the SVA can be found at (Note: If the applicant is not a current member, we suggest submitting the membership application well in advance to be sure that the membership is current by the deadline.)

The funding cannot be used to collect data for the fellow’s master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

Fellows are prohibited from accepting the Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship in conjunction with any other summer or research funding for the same projector over the same time frame as the proposed research supported by the Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship.

All fellows are required to attend the 2017 AAA Annual Meeting to be held in Washington, D.C. (November 29-December 3, 2017).

Permissible Uses of Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship

Funding: Financial support can be requested to support all travel expenses, including airfare, ground transportation, and visa application fees; living expenses and housing; fieldwork expenses such as gifts for participants, translator and field assistant fees; and all other reasonable and justified expenses. Funds may not be used to pay for graduate school tuition. Budgets must include financial support up to a maximum of $600 to attend the 2017 AAA Annual Meeting to be held in Washington, D.C.

Funding cannot be used to support language training in more commonly taught languages, such as Spanish, French, and Arabic. Some funding can be used to support language instruction for languages where formal instruction is limited, but the focus of the project should be on pursuing exploratory research rather than strictly language instruction. Funding can be used for methods training, but the methods in question must be tied directly to the larger research project and it will be this project that is the focus of the selection committee’s review. Proposals for general methods or statistical training, for example, are unlikely to be funded. We expect to fund proposals between $3,000 and $6,000. You may request a larger amount than the stated limit, but it is very unlikely that an award over $6,000 will be made.

Application components:

(1) Application form: Download the fellowship application form from the Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship website,or from here. complete the form using Adobe Acrobat or Reader, and save it with your last name in the title.
(2) Project statement: In 750 -1,000 words (excluding references), please describe the specific research activities or training that you will carry out with support from the SVA/Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship. Explain in detail how you will use your time, including any preliminary data you will collect and analysis you are considering. Please specify the ways in which this preliminary research and/or methods training has the potential to make your dissertation research more successful. Please indicate whether you have ever spent time in the field site in question. If so, please indicate the length of time and experience you have there, and how this bout of research will be different from previous visits. Finally, your proposal should specifically address how your research program has the potential to advance the field of visual/multimodal anthropology. The statement should be single-spaced, and use a 12-point font and one-inch margins on all sides. Any references included should be narrowly focused, and should not exceed 300 words.
(3) Brief curriculum vitae: In one single-spaced page, provide details on your education with dates of enrollment; any research funding, fellowships, and awards you may have received, including amounts and dates, and any academic publications and presentations you may have completed. Include details on prior employment, volunteer work, and other experience only if it is directly relevant to the proposed research. Other information, such as teaching experience, should not be included.
(4) Budget and budget justification: In one single-spaced page, provide a detailed and specific budget with justification for the items and amounts included. Justification should include mention of how costs were estimated. Your budget must include support up to $600 for attendance at the 2017 AAA meetings, and this amount can be listed as a single item in your budget.
(5) Letter of recommendation: Applicants must obtain a letter written in support of their application from a faculty member familiar with their work and research aspirations. Normally, this will be the chair of the student’s graduate research advisory committee. Please provide the attached information sheet to the individual who is writing the letter. It is the applicant’s responsibility to be sure that the letter is received by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Only one letter of recommendation will be accepted.

Deadline for application submission: 5 pm EST on Tuesday April 25, 2017

Your application should consist of only two files: (1) a PDF of the completed application form (section #1 above), and (2) a single PDF file that includes sections #2 (project statement and references), #3 (curriculum vitae), and #4 (budget and justification). Please include your last name in the name of both files. To submit your application, please email both files as an attachment to the SVA’s President, Stephanie Takaragawa ( by the deadline. Applications received after this time and date will not be reviewed. We expect to contact awardees by the end of April, and hope to contact all applicants by May 1, 2017. Please contact Stephanie Takaragawa with any questions or if there are any changes to your application, such a receipt of other funding.

2017-2018 SVA/RLF Fellowship Application Form

Monday, April 17, 2017

CMA Museum Anthropology Futures Conference: Preliminary Program Now Avaiable

“Museum Anthropology Futures” Conference
Council for Museum Anthropology Inaugural Conference
May 25-27, 2017 at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

You can access the preliminary conference program– with session participants, abstracts, and more!– at the conference website.
You can also directly view or download the program here

Note the description of the “conference ethnographers” at the back of the program–this is something new we are introducing that we hope will make for a unique experience for those who attend the conference, and will provide access to the sessions for those who are unable to attend.

Remember to follow us on Facebook and stay tuned to Twitter.

Thank you!
Erica, Jen, John, and Josh

SAR Lecture: Repatriation beyond the U.S.

Santa Fe New Mexican, Paul Weideman, April 14, 2017

Until 1924, Native people were not recognized as citizens in the United States. Fifty-five years later, Congress passed the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and in 1990 the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act became the law of the land. NAGPRA was enacted to address the rights of lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to Native American cultural items, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.

However, the rights of Native Americans to their own cultural items ends at the U.S. border. “There are many indigenous human remains and cultural items located in private collections and museums worldwide, and there’s been a global effort over the past few years to help bring together Native people to work on this problem,” said Honor Keeler (Cherokee Nation), who is one of the participants in a free panel discussion at the School for Advanced Research (SAR) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19.

Keeler is the director of the International Repatriation Project, which she brought to the Maryland-based Association on American Indian Affairs. She joins attorneys Kate Fitz Gibbon, Fitz Gibbon Law, Santa Fe; and Gregory A. Smith, Hobbs Straus Dean & Walker, Washington, D.C., for the talk “At the Forefront of Repatriation: New Policy and Impact Beyond the United States.” The moderator is Brian D. Vallo (Pueblo of Acoma), director of the Indian Arts Research Center at SAR.

“My big focus will be on international repatriation for indigenous peoples worldwide,” Keeler told Pasatiempo. “NAGPRA was an amazing piece of legislation that was passed just following the National Museum of the American Indian Act, and ARPA had only come into play in the late ’70s, so many indigenous people in the U.S. were working toward addressing this horrific issue of having had their ancestors and cultural items dug up from graves and studied without their free, prior and informed consent.”

Education is an important focus for Native people hoping for the repatriation of revered cultural objects from overseas. “Education is important,” she said. “It’s breaking down those stereotypes and teaching about cultural appropriation. This is a human rights issue.”

The Association on American Indian Affairs was established in 1946. It dates back to a 1922 organization named Eastern Association on Indian Affairs, which was founded in New York to help a group of Pueblo people who were trying to protect their land rights.

The School for Advanced Research is at 660 Garcia St. Call 505-954-7207 or visit for more information.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Finnish National Museum returns thousands of artefacts to indigenous Sámi people

YLE Uutiset, April 4, 2017

"Finland's National Museum is to return a collection of some 2,600 objects to the indigenous Sámi people of northern Finland. The Helsinki museum has signed a preliminary agreement with Siida, the national museum of the Finnish Sámi in Inari, Lapland.

However the collection won't be transferred until a planned expansion of Siida is completed – in the early 2020s at the earliest.

Meanwhile National Museum director Elina Anttila notes that the handover is important in that it will serve the many people in the Sámi region who make objects and handicrafts based on traditional techniques.
Sinful 'horn hat'

The National Museum's Sámi collection is considered internationally significant because of its breadth and history. The collection was started in 1830 with the donation of a Sámi baby's crib.

Over nearly two centuries, it has been expanded with objects provided by linguists, folklorists, officials and members of the public. The most active era was the first century or so, up until the outbreak of the Winter War in 1939.

The objects include a masculine doll bought by a tourist on a roadside in Enontekiö in the 1950s, and a women's sarvilakki ('horn hat'), which was worn in Lapland up until the late 1800s.

At that point – according to some accounts – its use was banned by Lutheran clerics from the conservative Laestadian movement. They considered these pointy red hats to be sinful, dubbing them 'devil's horns'.

Siida director Valkonen says she is particularly excited to study the items from the Skolt Sámi, a small ethnic group within the Finnish indigenous community, with only a few hundred surviving members. These materials make up about a third of the collection.

They are from the Petsamo-Suonikylä area, which was ceded to the USSR during the Second World War, and its residents resettled in Inari. There are still a few Sámi in Russia, while the largest populations are in Norway and Sweden.
Running out of space

The National Museum's Anttila notes that there has been a growing international discussion of repatriation of indigenous people's artefacts in recent decades. The transfer of the National Museum's holdings to Inari has been considered since the 1990s, but she says the time is finally right for it."