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Department of Social Anthropology


News from The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

This year sees the re-uniting of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) as a sub-department of Social Anthropology, opening up exciting new possibilities for collaborative research around the extraordinary collections of the Museum, the communities whose heritage MAA cares for, and questions that speak to the Department’s research themes. MAA currently hosts research projects, with researchers working on museum collections, art, identity, development and decolonization across Oceania, China, West Africa and southern Africa.

Curators, researchers and the public engagement team at MAA have continued to push the boundaries of what the Museum can do with an innovative programme of research-based exhibitions that reveal the historic complexities and contemporary salience of artefacts and images for source communities and for local audiences, whether within the University or across Cambridge and further afield.

Building on the successes of recent projects including Chiefs and Governors: Art and Power in Fiji (2012), Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond (2014), The Power of Paper: 50 Years of Printmaking in Australia, Canada and South Africa (2015) and Hide and Seek: Looking for Childhood in the Past (2016), 2017 saw the opening of Another India: Explorations and Expressions of Indigenous South Asia. This major exhibition, curated by Dr Mark Elliott, traces the stories of the Indigenous and Adivasi (‘original inhabitant’) peoples of India whose artefacts are now in Cambridge, and of the stories of the people, encounters and relationships that brought these artefacts to Cambridge in the first place.

The exhibition has involved collaboration with scholars from the UK, India and beyond, and with artists and writers from Adivasi and Indigenous groups across India. It has been supported by a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant, the Pilgrim Trust, the Crowther-Beynon Fund and in particular Art Fund, which enabled Elliott to commission new works by Indigenous and Adivasi artists that respond directly to the collections from their own communities now in Cambridge, and the histories that these artefacts reveal or obscure. These provocative new works are now part of the museum’s permanent collection, creating a lasting legacy that will have an impact on the galleries for years to come.MAA News

The artists and the team at MAA explore contested histories of representation, colonialism and violence, highlighting and challenging exoticising and ‘othering’ of marginalized communities in South Asia. As Ruby Hembrom, an Adivasi writer and publisher who collaborated on the exhibition and published the exhibition’s catalogue, says: ‘These objects speak of the bodies and the struggles they belong to. These objects assert the necessity to leave otherness behind… These objects are the testimony of peoples refusing to be forgotten in every India.’ The exhibition runs until 22 April 2018.

Beyond special exhibitions, transformations continue in MAA’s permanent galleries. The Museum recently received an award of £66,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (East of England) for Sharing Heritage: Pacific Currents in Cambridgeshire. The Project, led by Dr Anita Herle, is based on extensive collaborative research on MAA's world-renowned Pacific collections. Pacific Currents will enable the Museum to re-imagine the Pacific displays in the Maudslay gallery and develop a public engagement programme addressing themes of exchange and movement and migration and environmental sustainability.