Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, After-Lives

An Interdisciplinary Conference
February 2, 2012 – 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
February 3, 2012 – 9:30 AM – 6:30 PM
Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture
38 West 86th Street, Lecture Hall
New York, NY 10024
Between the 1890s and 1930s, innumerable collecting expeditions traversed the globe in pursuit of scientific facts and specimens for natural history and the allied field of anthropology. This symposium draws together scholars working on the anthropology of expeditions and their collected natural and cultural materials. There was tremendous diversity in the size, length, and organization of expeditions; some fieldworkers traveled solo for years in familiar places, while others formed specialized caravans which set foot for a fortnight along untraveled paths. Itineraries were structured by engagements with bureaucrats, local intermediaries, and native collectors who played central roles in shaping the collections shipped from the field. This symposium is organized around three themes which explore the fieldwork of expeditions, the material culture of exploration, and the dispersal of collections. Travel and assemblage considers the narratives, technologies, and collecting habits of expedition members. Visualities examines the processes and encounters of artistic work in the field and the research and exhibitions that were the outcome of those labors. And, after-lives and reassemblage assesses the research, and exhibition potential of expedition objects, archived documentation, and photographs for museums of natural history and anthropology. Although dreams of totality were the rationale of most expeditions, the papers presented here highlight their idiosyncrasies and unexpected outcomes, and the bearing they could have for histories of the natural sciences and anthropology.
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