Colonial Entanglement, ‘South Sea’ Imaginations and Knowledge Production
by Katharina Nowak
Panel: Managing, Using and Researching Objects in Collections Tuesday, 22 June, 9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. (CET)
My lecture focuses on a collection that came during the German colonial period from Papua New Guinea (PNG) to Germany. It is called the ‘South Seas Collection’ by Wilhelm Knappe (1855-1910) which is housed by the Museum of Thuringian Folklore in Erfurt. Knappe was a German diplomat and colonial official. I am interested in different epistemic practices through which knowledge is produced in dealing with these objects in historical and contemporary contexts, including everyday cultures from which they originated. In relation to the practices of collectors and dealers, curators and scholars who gathered these objects from their everyday or ritual contexts (sometimes using force and power), mobilized them, shipped them to Germany and sold, stored, researched, curated, and still curate them in the context of museums. How are and were these objects remembered and forgotten, conceived and classified, produced and used, stolen or exchanged, researched and exhibited? To outline these questions, I am going to use an object biography. In conclusion I will point out current questions concerning the collection.
Katharina Nowak studied Anthropology and Communication and Media Studies in Bremen as well as Museum and Exhibition Studies in Oldenburg. Since September 2019, she is a PhD student at the Department of Anthropology and Cultural Research at the University of Bremen. Her research focuses on collaborative forms of ethnographic knowledge production, decolonization of knowledge and she has a regional interest in Papua New Guinea. Since April 2021, she has been working as a curator assistant for the Oceania collections of the MARKK in Hamburg.