Michael Rowlands will be coming to speak at the Indigenous Arts in Transition Seminar on Wednesday, November 7, 2012. His talk is entitled “The New Chinese Museology: Shifting Geographies of Power, Development, and Heritage.”

Michael Rowlands is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Material Culture at University College London, where he has been teaching since 1973. He additionally serves as Visiting Professor of Cultural Heritage at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Rowlands received his B.Sc. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from University of London. His current research focuses on issues of cultural restitution and cultural heritage, as well as the theorization of postcolonial ethnographic museum collections. Rowlands has previously conducted fieldwork on the development of museums in West Africa and is presently working on private museum initiatives in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in China. His current cultural heritage research project is in collaboration with anthropologists in the National University of Taiwan on the revitalization of indigenous cultural knowledge. Recent publications include: “Response to ‘Relations between Archaeologists and the Military in the case of Iraq,’” Peter Stone, ed. in Cultural Heritage, Ethics and the Military (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2011) and “Material Connections and Colonial Encounters,” Joseph Maran and Philipp Stockhazmmer, eds., in Materiality and Social Practice (Oxford: Oxbow, 2012).

Heritage, as both discourse and practice, is a very recent European import to China, but it already has a pervasive and powerful presence across official and public domains. Heritage transforms the social, economic and cultural life of localities and re-shapes the domestic and global notions of China’s national identity. Museums are a core feature of local development strategies implemented by provincial and county authorities, especially in the historically poor and ethnically diverse regions of the southwest. Heritage tourism is also promoted in diverse forms, from the “red” sites commemorating China’s twentieth-century revolution to the exotic “ocean of song and dance” in Kaili, Guizhou’s main city of Miao culture. However, there is a growing divide between governmental policies and practices and those of local communities whose claims to their own cultural past are being appropriated by political, developmental, and commercial interests. Heritage has become a problematic term and practice, involving competition, conflict and new hierarchies of power in local communities. In this talk, Rowlands will discuss the implications of heritage for local communities’ perceptions of their own cultural pasts and values, as well as the message that local communities want to transmit to future generations. Additionally, Rowlands will address new conceptions and practices of heritage that are emerging to contest the top-down imposition of heritage models that deny the possibility of locally-embedded cultural renewal.

Light refreshments will be served at 5:45 pm. The presentation will begin at 6:00 pm.

RSVP is required.

PLEASE NOTE that our Lecture Hall can only accommodate a limited number of people, so please come early if you would like to have a seat in the main room. We also have overflow seating available; all registrants who arrive late will be seated in the overflow area.