Anything but a Völkerkundemuseum [ethnographic museum] On the Current Concept Development of the Humboldt Forum

3. October 2017

by Viola König

“Be outraged, but publicly, please! Anthropology as a Science of Disturbance” – this was the title of a plenary session moderated by Cassis Kilian at the 2013 German Anthropological Society conference “Positionings: Anthropology in the Academy, the World of Work, and the Public Sphere” in Mainz, where I lectured on the then-current state of the Humboldt Forum. At the center of the discussion was the general complaint that the voice of cultural anthropology went unheard when it had something to say about central topics. Four years later, cultural anthropology, at least in the shape of its museums, is now at the center of public attention, but in a negative way. What has happened?

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“No power for nobody” Let the exhibits speak at last

3. October 2017

by Bernhard Streck

The goal is accomplished. The establishment of the new Humboldt Forum has revived what Adolf Bastian was aiming at by founding the Ethnological Museum in the middle of the aspiring metropolis Berlin [in 1873], but which was buried under the bombshells of the Second World War. Bastian’s key concern was, however, to present the results of a worldwide active salvage anthropology, an attempt by the well educated bourgeoisie to save the fruits of various cultures before the colonial proceeding globalization could crush them. Today, on the other hand, there is nothing more to save than the idea of rescuing itself, which lives off the more knowledgeable than charitable form of recognition of the culturally different Other.

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How to move on with Humboldt’s legacy? Re-thinking ethnographic collections

3. October 2017

by Anna Brus, Michi Knecht, Larissa Förster, Verena Rodatus, Ehler Voss and Martin Zillinger

The Humboldt Forum, which is currently being built in the middle of Berlin within the walls of the reconstructed Prussian Berlin Palace and will be hosting the collections of the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin from 2018, has become a focal point for debates on these matters in Germany. With the withdrawal of art historian Bénédicte Savoy from the international team of experts of the Humboldt Forum in summer 2017, the conflict reached a new and striking climax. Bénédicte Savoy regards the present shape of the Humboldt Forum as an uncritical continuation of the more than 300-year-old history of  colonial collections of “dirty tricks and hopes”, which are not spoken about or brought to the public, but held under a “lead lid” (Savoy 2017). Supporters and representatives of the Humboldt Forum, on the other hand, promise a democratic and cosmopolitan space for debating these questions and thereby make use of concepts such as “shared heritage” (Parzinger 2016).

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