Repatriation and the Second Life of Heritage: Return of the Masks in Kodiak, Alaska

A public lecture with James Clifford (University of California, Santa Cruz)

October 11, 2013
17:00 – 18:30
Visual Arts Building VA114
SGW Campus

Co-sponsored with the Feminist Media Studio, the CISSC Working Group in Transnational Cultural Flows, the McGill Anthropology Department and the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema.

“This is a report from Kodiak Alaska. I have been visiting the region over the past eight years as part of a comparative research project on indigenous social movements and cultural politics. The talk will focus on a recent exhibition of traditional masks at the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository in Kodiak. The masks had not been seen in Alaska since they were collected and taken to Europe in 1871. Their return during the summer of 2008 was felt by many to be a defining moment in the accelerating local activities of cultural renewal and identity assertion. As I will try to make clear, the masks’ repatriation is part of a relational process of historical transformation. This is not, in any direct sense, the renewal of a past life. The masks now exist in a changed, and changing, homeland where they are making new, re-translated meanings. This is their “second life” as heritage. I argue that to understand the transformations of heritage in a complex, non stereotypic, way we need to move between overlapping, discrepant contexts: local worlds of cultural transmission and invention, emerging venues of indigenous mobilization and public performance, art-practice, museum display and exchange.”

This is event is open to the public. No RSVP is necessary.

In addition to this public lecture, CEREV is hosting “Futures of the Ethnographic Museum,” a workshop with James Clifford in our Exhibition Lab on October 9, 2013.

Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence