With the support of the Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship in Summer 2011, Prof.. Mark Thurner conducted museum research in Paris, France; Milan, Turin, and Rome, Italy; and Athens, Greece. His visits contributed toward ongoing research tracing the genealogy of museums and artifacts relating to political and disciplinary discourses. Travel funded in part by the Rothman Summer Fellowship also allowed Prof. Thurner to gather information used in preparation for LAH3931 Museums and Modernity, taught in Spring 2012, and which is ultimately intended for a book-length publication. Prof. Thurner has since continued research at museums in Madrid and Berlin.
Prof. Thurner’s 2011 summer research concerned museums that have responded to the postcolonial fragmentation of empires, alternately cultivating imperial, colonial, or national narratives. Prof. Thurner has conducted previous research in museums influenced by the Spanish Empire and its fragmentation in Peru, Mexico, Argentina, and Spain. The Rothman Summer Fellowship facilitated his research on museums shown to have exerted especial influence over these Latin American and Spanish museums, as well as expanding his exploration to include museums in France and Italy influenced by the colonization and decolonization of Africa. Important research conducted with funding from the Rothman Summer Fellowship included study of the genealogy of the American collection held by the Musée du quai Branly; a comparative analysis of the Italian narrative of unification, as presented by several major national museums; and exploration of the broad diversity of museographical techniques available from museums in Athens.
Prof. Thurner has observed two dominant historical forces influencing the updating and rebuilding of these museums: paradigmatic shifts in the disciplines of anthropology and history, and cultural shifts in the conceptualization of empire and nationhood. These observations have compelled him to ask: “Do shifts in anthropological and historical discourse respond to political crises and new theories of polity? Conversely, may changes in scientific and historical thought shape theories of empire, nation, and the corollary concepts of subject and citizen?” If both questions may be answered positively, Prof. Thurner suggests museums may be effectively visualized as a prism or a hall of mirrors reflecting or refracting anthropological and historical discourse onto administrative and cultural politics and vice versa.
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and the Public Sphere
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