Museum Display of Tibetan Art

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  1. 1. Westerners know more than us Conflict and negotiation in museum display of Tibetan art Shelley Mannion University of Lugano4 September 2007Glasgow, Scotland 8th Annual Conference of the European Sociological Association
  2. 2. Tibetans in exile 140,000 living outside TibetSwitzerland 3rd largest exile community Challenges of cultural survivalPreservation of heritageTransmission to next generation 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  3. 3. Museums as sites of negotiation Shared heritageWestern museums as inheritorsIncrease in Western Buddhist practitioners Museums as contact zones (Clifford 1997)Collection becomes ongoing relationshipReciprocity 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  4. 4. The 14 Dalai Lamas Exhibition, Zurich http://www.diedalailamas.ch August 2005 April 2006 17,000 visitors Ethnographic visitor study (36 interviewees) Institution of Dalai Lamas through artConceived as means to advance scholarshipDidactic aims: Political-historical Explain the entire system Highlight individual characteristics Debunk myths and stereotypes Convey atmosphere 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  5. 5. Visual and spatial languages: Exterior entrance'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  6. 6. Visual and spatial languages: Chronological'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  7. 7. Visual and spatial languages: Allotment of gallery space'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  8. 8. Visual and spatial languages: Symmetric arrangement'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  9. 9. Visual and spatial languages: Monastery-like design'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  10. 10. Interpretive media: print catalogue and audio guide'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  11. 11. Itineraries of identity MacDonald (1995) Five visitor itineraries:General interestEmotionally connectedBuddhistsIntellectualTibetan'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  12. 12. Decoding visitor itineraries Hall (1980) triad of television news receptionDominant-hegemonicNegotiatedOppositionalNon-consumption 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  13. 13. Four Western itineraries Itinerary Way identity expressed Type of reading1) Intellectuals Proud of being Dominant-expertshegemonic2) General interestLifestyle connection Non-consumption Negotiated3) Emotionally connected Imagined citizenship Non-consumptionthrough travel Negotiated4) BuddhistArticulation ofNon-consumptionBuddhist faith'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  14. 14. Tibetan itineraries Preservation of heritage Cultural transmissionSome oppositional response Practiced by familiesAuthenticity Not supported by environmentTranslation competence Objects as reminders of lack of knowledge Complex negotiation with exhibit and within family Both accepted audio commentary without question 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  15. 15. Conflicts and negotiations Attitudes Interpretive messages Media Museum environment 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  16. 16. Tibetan attitudes Embarrassment about lack of knowledge Outsiders: Westerners know more than us Reluctance to question or criticize Proud to see art in Western museums 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  17. 17. Interpretive messages Not connected with the Tibetan people Intellectual focus problematic for novices Political emphasis perceived as attack 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  18. 18. Media Audio guide suppressed Tibetan narratives Photographs irrepressible (Edwards 2001)E. Edwards, (2001) Raw Histories: Photographs, Anthropology and Museums 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  19. 19. Museum environment Silence obstructs cultural transmission Sacred objects in secular settings 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art
  20. 20. Conclusions Museum key site of negotiation for diaspora conflicts Identity construction at ethnographic exhibitionsTibetans filter through cultural identity Potential solutions to challengesAcknowledge diversityBe sensitive to self-deprecating attitudesSupport social itinerariesOpen texts (photographs) 'Westerners know more than us': Conflict and negotation in museum display of Tibetan art

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