Professor Amrita Ibrahim named Summer 2019 SIMA Fellow

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Congratulations to Professor Amrita Ibrahim on being named one of the Smithsonian Institution’s Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology Faculty Fellows for 2019! Check out the announcement on their Facebook page.

Professor Ibrahim’s project for the Fellowship takes inspiration from anthropology under Franz Boas to rekindle the relationship between the teaching of cultural anthropology in the classroom and the museum as a site of learning and inquiry. She is particularly interested in the collection of ethnographic films housed at the National Museum of Natural History as material artefacts as well as archives of culture. Ethnographic films are both records about (other) cultures as well as record of cultures (that produce them). During her time as a SIMA Faculty Fellow, she wants to learn how to handle and analyze film as a material object as well as how museums curate and process visual material. As cultural anthropologists study the materiality of media in the digital age, this project aims to understand the genealogy of film as a material artefact.

By learning how to see film as a material object, I hope to bring the museum back into the teaching of cultural anthropology, from where it has fallen away since the reflective turn and globalization. Ironically, today, cultural anthropologists must return to museum collections to engage with how globalization is affecting communities and notions of cultural representation. Whether it was the threat of colonialism and ‘disappearing’ cultures at the turn of the 20th century, or globalization and now the challenges of the Anthropocene, the museum continues to occupy a central place in our intellectual imaginations. Reckoning with the colonial origins of modern museums and anthropology means also finding ways to revitalize the museum, and anthropology, as spaces of collaboration and learning. This is particularly important at a time when threats of ethnic, racial, and economic nationalism shape contemporary discourse and politics; politics that Franz Boas himself was fighting a hundred years ago.