Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes: The Anthropology of Museums
Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes poses a number of probingquestions about the role and responsibility of museums and anthropologyin the contemporary world. In it, Michael Ames, an internationallyrenowned museum director, challenges popular concepts and criticisms ofmuseums and presents an alternate perspective which reflects hisexperiences from many years of museum work.
Based on the author's previous book, Museums, the Public andAnthropology, the new edition includes seven new essays which argue, asin the previous volume, that museums and anthropologists mustcontextualize and critique themselves -- they must analyse and critiquethe social, political and economic systems within which they work. Inthe new essays, Ames looks at the role of consumerism and the marketeconomy in the production of such phenomena as worlds' fairs andMcDonald's hamburger chains, referring to them as "museums ofeveryday life" and indicating the way in which they, like museums,transform ideology into commonsense, thus reinforcing and perpetuatinghegemonic control over how people think about and represent themselves.He also discusses the moral/political ramifications of conflictingattitudes towards Aboriginal art (is it art or artifact?); censorship(is it liberating or repressive?); and museum exhibits (are theyinformative or disinformative?).
The earlier essays outline the development of museums in the Westernworld, the problems faced by anthropologists in attempting to deal withthe often conflicting demands of professional as opposed to publicinterests, the tendency to both fabricate and stereotype, and the needto establish a reciprocal rather than exploitative relationship betweenmuseums/anthropologists and Aboriginal people.
Written during the course of the last decade, these essays offer anaccessible, often anecdotal, journey through one professionalanthropologist's concerns about, and hopes for, his discipline andits future.
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