Looking at African Things: Exhibiting Africa: Museum Representation of the Continent and Its People
049 UMMA
M 3:00-6:00pm
3 Credit Seminar

What are the cultural forces that have shaped the collecting and display of Africa--its animals, its peoples, and the things that people make--in the museums of Europe, North America and Africa? "Exhibiting Africa" examines the social, political, economic and aesthetic ideologies that have influenced the interpretation of the continent in a variety of exhibitionary contexts, including expositions, natural history museums, art museums, zoological parks, and theme parks. The course focuses primarily on sub-Saharan Africa and has three components. The first considers the history of museum representation in the West--practices associated with Europe's early encounters with Africa in the 16-18th centuries, the systematic collecting and display informed by Darwinian evolutionary theory during 19th century, and the "discovery" of African art at the turn of the 20th century. The second component examines the history of museums in Africa--indigenous analogues for the museum, the Western institution introduced during the colonial period, and new paradigms for the museum that are grounded in the needs of local communities and the agendas of young nation states. The third component offers an opportunity to apply some of the current thinking about representing cultures in the development of a series of podcasts that reinterpret the African gallery in the UM Museum of Art. The course is presented as a seminar. Weekly meetings will include lecture and discussion built around reading assignments and museum/gallery visits. Pending funding, the class will travel to Washington, DC, during the second half of the course, to visit a number of museums that have been involved with interpreting the cultures of Africa. There are no text books for the course, weekly reading assignments will be drawn from a set of articles, essays and book excerpts available on a dedicated CTools site. In addition to preparing written summaries of weekly reading assignments, students will prepare a critical analysis of an exhibition dealing with Africa, and develop content for the podcasts. No prerequisites are required, however, some knowledge of Africa and/or cultural theory associated with colonial and post-colonial encounters is recommended.

No cost estimate required. B. 3, 4