Shawn Rowlands will be speaking at a Work-in-Progress Seminar on Tuesday, October 14, 2014, from 1:30 to 3pm. His talk is entitled “Staging Aboriginality.”


By the early twentieth century, it was taken as an axiomatic fact that the Aboriginal people of Australia were doomed to extinction. This belief was based on the prevailing scientific and philosophic attitudes of European observers, but it was also grounded in the collection and study of Aboriginal material culture. Yet this analysis of the material culture was deeply flawed as it ignored or did not recognize the ample evidence of Aboriginal survival and adaptation. This talk will discuss research conducted into collections at major Australian museums, as well as further analysis of the Aboriginal ethnographic collection at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. This research demonstrates the flaw in Victorian and Edwardian approaches to ethnography in Australia, and the ways in which it was employed by museums to construct a false notion of Aboriginality. The talk focuses on so-called hybrid objects—material culture displaying physical evidence of cross-cultural contact—and argues that these objects are better considered as artifacts of frontier entanglement, and are certainly no less authentic an element of indigenous culture than more orthodox examples.


Coffee and tea will be served; attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch.

RSVP is required.