Student Reflections: Chantale Potié on James Clifford’s “Futures of the Ethnographic Museum”

The author of this post, Chantale Potié, was one of the participants in “Futures of the Ethnographic Museum,” a workshop in the CEREV Exhibition Lab in October 2013 led by Dr. James Clifford (University of California, Santa Cruz).

I was pleased to be able to participate in the intimate “Futures of the Ethnographic Museum” workshop led by prominent scholar James Clifford on October. It is rare to be able to engage with a figure as influential as Clifford in such a small group setting. Clifford presented a text based on a keynote lecture he delivered at the Pitt Rivers Museum earlier this summer, a famous museum known for its taxonomic exhibiting of anthropological artifacts. Clifford sought to question the present state of the ethnographic museum through two case studies: 1) The UBC Museum of Anthropology (now widely known as MOA) in Vancouver, and 2) the future Humboldt Forum currently being built in Berlin.

Calling for an exercise in care with regard to how culture is interpreted, Clifford asked at one point: how can we sustain a hermeneutic rather than an aesthetic notion of culture? This is a question that stuck with me, and encouraged me towards deeper reflection on my own MA thesis project, which I am framing in terms of the theory of translation. In my thesis, I will challenge, or at least test the boundaries of the ethics of cultural translation (a multidisciplinary strategy used to confront the crushing effects of globalization) through a case study of a displaced contemporary Canadian artist. Though the form of culture I am working with – contemporary art – is radically different from Clifford’s ethnographic focus, the challenges put forth, and the questions raised during the workshop remain pertinent. How can we thoughtfully, ethically, and productively speak to cultural production and practices?”

Chantale Potié is an MA student in the Art History department at Concordia University working under the supervision of Dr. Kristina Huneault.

She has worked with such cultural organizations as the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, and Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal. She is the recipient of Concordia’s Rentata Hornstein Fellowship in Art History (2012-2013). Her personal interests have lead her to towards questioning local, national and international claims of belonging in relation to current developments within translation studies. Her research investigates contemporary artistic practices through the proposed methods and strategies of cultural translation.

Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence