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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/0m5v-zq58

technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Journalist as Collector: A Dead Man's Wristwatch and the Assembly of Authoritative Truth





Collection, as both practice and principle, has long adjoined the work of anthropology. Gathering artifacts, tracking kinship networks, cataloging grammars, arraying myths: these concerns indicate the inherence of collection to each of the four fields. From Boasian “preservations” of indigenous cultures (Boas 1902) to the perspectival diversity of the “ontological turn” (Holbraad and Pedersen 2017), from the “reflexive” recovery of mystified ethnographic elements (Clifford and Marcus 1986) to recent multi-species and trans-human proliferations (Kohn 2013), collection in anthropology is ubiquitous and enduring. Anthropology’s compulsive will to knowledge, its concern with comprehensiveness and global coverage, its politics of certainty and organization: these aspects of anthropology’s own culture are illuminated through a consideration of collection. This panel takes up collection as a lens through which to view the anthropological enterprise and to revisit objects of anthropological concern. Addressing the theme of “truth and responsibility,” this panel asks how the act of collecting can shift understandings of anthropological responsibility, and how the premise of a collection produces or undermines an anthropological will to truth. Collection here undergirds anthropological work as a means to select, assemble, represent, and assert. A critical engagement with collection can, in this manner, challenge the concept of truth and humanistic calls for responsibility by complicating notions of inclusion and recognition in the first instance. This challenge comes amidst ongoing struggles in museum display (fought, for example, by the Decolonize This Place movement) as well as recent controversy in forensic anthropology (in the use of human remains from the 1985 MOVE police bombing). Our aim, however, is to see collection as a broader structure of anthropological thought and practice. Anthropologists have gestured toward collection in critiques of colonial sense-making (Simpson 2014), in theories of the archive (Riles 2008), and in museum studies (Karp and Levine 1991). This panel will centralize collection through a range of disciplinary positions, arguing for re-engagement with something fundamental but often overlooked. Each presentation utilizes collection, collecting, or the collector to resituate topics of anthropological interest and thereby reposition the anthropological frame. How does mass media assert a collectionary power on reality, assembling truths reproductive of societal expectation? How does incarceration function as a state-sponsored act of collection, and what forms of resistance are adequate to this “collective” dynamic of the carceral institution? How does weed abatement reinforce modernity’s collection of regional biomes while entangling racialized workers and the chaparral itself? How do archeologists theorize the materiality of collection, and what impact does collection have on socially engaged research? Boas, Franz. 1902. Kwakiutl Texts. New York: American Museum of Natural History. Clifford, James, and George Marcus. 1986. Writing Culture. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press. Holbraad, Martin, and Morten Axel Pedersen. 2017. The Ontological Turn. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. Karp, Ivan, and Steven Lavine, eds. 1991. Exhibiting Cultures. Washington: Smithsonian Press. Kohn, Eduardo. 2013. How Forests Think. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press. Riles, Annelise, ed. 2008. Documents. Ann Arbor: Michigan UP. Simpson, Audra. 2014. Mohawk Interruptus. Durham, NC: Duke UP.


Transcript English (automatic)

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