The Museum of Other People: From Colonial Acquisitions to Cosmopolitan Exhibitions (Hardcover)

The Museum of Other People: From Colonial Acquisitions to Cosmopolitan Exhibitions By Adam Kuper Cover Image
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A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK • From one of the world’s most distinguished anthropologists, an important and timely work of cultural history that looks at the origins and much debated future of anthropology museums

“A provocative look at questions of ethnography, ownership and restitution . . . the argument [Kuper] makes in The Museum of Other People is important precisely because just about no one else is making it. He asks the questions that others are too shy to pose. . . . Required reading.” –Financial Times (UK)


In this deeply researched, immersive history, Adam Kuper tells the story of how foreign and prehistoric peoples and cultures were represented in Western museums of anthropology. Originally created as colonial enterprises, their halls were populated by displays of plundered art, artifacts, dioramas, bones, and relics. Kuper reveals the politics and struggles of trying to build these museums in Germany, France, and England in the mid-19th century, and the dramatic encounters between the very colorful and eccentric collectors, curators, political figures, and high members of the church who founded them. He also details the creation of contemporary museums and exhibitions, including the Smithsonian, the Harvard’s Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, and the famous 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago which was inspired by the Paris World Fair of 1889.

Despite the widespread popularity and cultural importance of these institutions, there also lies a murky legacy of imperialism, colonialism, and scientific racism in their creation. Kuper tackles difficult questions of repatriation and justice, and how best to ensure that the future of these museums is an ethical, appreciative one that promotes learning and cultural exchange.

A stunning, unique, accessible work based on a lifetime of research, The Museum of Other People reckons with the painfully fraught history of museums of natural history, and how curators, anthropologists, and museumgoers alike can move forward alongside these time-honored institutions.

About the Author


ADAM KUPER is a fellow of the British Academy and a recipient of the Royal Anthropological Institute's Huxley Memorial Medal. He was Centennial Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and a visiting professor at Boston University. He has appeared often on BBC TV and radio, and he regularly reviews for The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement and the Wall Street Journal.

Praise For…


“A nuanced, informative look at the history, development, and future of museums of anthropology and ethnology. . . . This highly recommended work . . . challenges preconceptions and encourages readers to think critically about this complex and important issue.”
Library Journal, starred review

“Authoritative . . . [A] vigorous examination of ethnography and anthropology museums. . . . Kuper’s deeply researched history. . . . advocates for cosmopolitan museums that can transcend ‘ethnic and national identities’ and ‘challenge boundaries.’ A vibrant cultural history.
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Kuper’s case is strong and his voice—erudite and elegiac—commands respect as the summation of a long and honourable life in the service of anthropology.”
Times Literary Supplement (UK)
 
“A provocative look at questions of ethnography, ownership and restitution . . . the argument [Kuper] makes in The Museum of Other People is important precisely because just about no one else is making it. He asks the questions that others are too shy to pose. . . . Required reading.”
Financial Times (UK)
 
“[A] tale of the evolution of these now endangered disciplines and the institutions created for their exposition. . . . Kuper is adamant that, ultimately, ‘the local cannot be curtained off from the global.’”
The Telegraph (UK)
 
“Kuper suggests we need to think carefully about the complex and often contradictory histories of the objects in our museums. . . . Highly readable—not least because he articulates quite a lot of things that other museum commentators possibly think, but don’t dare say. . . . fascinating.”
The Times (UK)
 
“Kuper exposes the limits of contemporary curators who seek to atone for the colonial past. . . . He suggests that they are as fuelled by romantic and relativistic ideas of difference as their forebears. . . . [and] puts forward the case for a ‘Cosmopolitan Museum’ that transcends ethnic and national identities, in which comparisons and connections are made—one that is guided less by politicking than rigorous inquiry.”
Literary Review (UK)
 
“Debates rage about the appropriateness of objects displayed in many anthropological exhibitions amid accusations they perpetuate poisonous imperialist narratives. . . . Kuper uses a historical approach to explore these contemporary controversies. . . . [and] makes the case that we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater by also rejecting the very idea of anthropological expertise.”
The Times Higher Education (UK)
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593700679
ISBN-10: 0593700678
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: April 16th, 2024
Pages: 432
Language: English