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Paul Basu, our next scholar-in-residence, will join us in-person from Monday, March 14 to Friday, March 18. He will meet with students and faculty, visit a course, and present an informal seminar to the BGC community, in addition to presenting at the Indigenous Arts in Transition seminar.

Paul Basu is currently visiting professor in the Department of Anthropology, University College London. He was previously professor of anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and professor of anthropology and cultural heritage studies at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Basu has long-standing research interests in the spatial and temporal dynamics of material culture and memory, including the intersecting journeys of people, things, and narratives of the past. He has conducted extensive research on the history of anthropology and anthropological collecting and the value of historical ethnographic collections for different stakeholders and communities in the present. For many years the regional focus of his work has been in West Africa. His books include Highland Homecomings (2007), Exhibition Experiments (with Sharon Macdonald, 2007), Museums, Heritage and International Development (with Wayne Modest, 2015), and The Inbetweenness of Things (2017). He has curated several exhibitions, including [Re:]Entanglements: Colonial Collections in Decolonial Times, currently on display at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, UK. He recently led the multi-partner Museum Affordances research project.


Community Coffee Hour

Monday, March 14, 4–5 pm
38 West 86th Street, Lobby

All students, faculty, and staff are invited to attend an informal gathering with Paul Basu. Light refreshments will be served.

Brown Bag Lunch
“Revisiting a West African Ethnographic Archive: Four Found Objects”

Tuesday, March 15, 12:15–1:15 pm
38 West 86th Street, Lecture Hall

The Museum Affordances / [Re:]Entanglements project has been pursuing a sustained engagement with the archival legacies of a series of surveys conducted by Northcote W. Thomas, the first government anthropologist to be appointed by Britain’s Colonial Office. Thomas conducted four anthropological surveys in West Africa between 1909 and 1915, three in Southern Nigeria, and one in Sierra Leone. Largely considered to be a failure at the time, the enterprise has nevertheless bequeathed to the present a remarkable–and contentious–multimodal archive. Adopting a collections-based approach, Basu presents a series of archival vignettes, focusing on four objects found in the archive–a document, a photograph, a sound recording, and an artefact–to explore both the historical context of the surveys, including what they tell us of the relationship between anthropology and colonial governance in the era, and contemporary re-engagements with communities in West Africa and beyond today. Ultimately, the project–and the presentation–asks whether the legacies of anthropology’s entanglement in the project of colonialism also offers opportunities and resources for the ongoing project of decolonization.

This talk is only open to the BGC community and will be accessible via Zoom in addition to being held in-person at 38 West 86th Street.  

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Indigenous Arts in Transition Seminar
“Museum Affordances: Colonial Collections, Decolonial Possibilities”

Wednesday, March 16, 6–7:30 pm
38 West 86th Street, Lecture Hall

Basu writes, “What do museums and their collections make possible? How can we activate these latent possibilities? Through such activation, can archives and collections assembled in the context of colonial scientific expeditions contribute to the project of decolonization? Over the last four years, we have been exploring these questions through an extended experiment in museum methods. Thinking with James Gibson’s concept of ‘affordance,’ we have been examining how the possibilities perceived in collections change over time and context. Working with a remarkable assemblage of artifacts, photographs, sound recordings, botanical specimens, and archival documents that constitute the material legacy of a series of anthropological surveys in West Africa in the early twentieth century, we have sought to understand what these things were perceived to afford historically and what they might afford today for different stakeholders and communities. This talk provides an introduction to the work of the Museum Affordances / [Re:]Entanglements project.”

This talk will be accessible via Zoom in addition to being held in-person at 38 West 86th Street.  

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Classroom Visit

Friday, March 18, 1:30–4 pm
38 West 86th Street, 5th Floor Classroom

Paul Basu will join “Exhibition Culture/s: Anthropology in and of the Museum” with Prof. Aaron Glass.

Upcoming 2021-22 Residencies

Monday, March 21 to Friday, March 25, 2022: Lothar von Falkenhausen

Monday, March 28 to Friday, April 1, 2022: Mónica Domínguez Torres

Monday, April 4 to Friday, April 8, 2022: Alison Clarke

Monday, April 11 to Friday, April 15, 2022: Bénédicte Savoy

Monday, April 18 to Friday, April 22, 2022: Carlo Ginzburg