Abducted Indonesian Mortuary Objects: Museums in the Era of Heritage-Consciousness
Professor Kathleen M. Adams, Professor of Anthropology and Interim Director, Islamic World Studies Program, Loyola University Chicago
Join us Friday October 12, 2018 at 3:30 pm in Sabin G28.
This talk examines the rise of “museum-mindedness” (Kreps 1994) in Toraja, Indonesia as well as the local cultural visions and political aspirations for private, family-run museums in upland Sulawesi. Today, decades of mortuary tourism and thefts of sacred ancestral objects, in tandem with rising heritage-consciousness and awareness of Toraja grave carvings in international museum collections, prompt new debates and clashes within and beyond Toraja society concerning the proper care (or guardianship) of both local grave displays and recaptured heritage items. This talk will examine the cultural and ethical complexities of on-going efforts to foster dialogues with Torajan stake-holders surrounding potential repatriation of several sacred Toraja mortuary effigies from American museum collections. It takes up politics and poetics of a newly-established local-government-run Toraja museum, and the distinctive Torajan cultural ideas embodied in its displays, some of which feature recaptured heritage items. Case studies reveal contrasting ideas about cultural displays and museums (their potential authority-building powers, their relationships to various political or religious power bases, and their abilities—or inabilities—to accommodate local sensibilities concerning the realms of life and death).