Questions for Unit 4, 2nd Discussion (Kim):
1. The museum seems to be a crossroads between revolution and recuperation, modernity and patrimony. Does the museum emerge from our readings as an inherently neutral site--a plastic medium readily stamped by contradictory ideologies and intentions--or is its formation (spatial; rhetorical; conceptual;) intrinsically favorable to one or the other side of this dynamic?
2. Do collections, exhibitions, archives, and commemorations share canons of inclusion and exclusion? Are their functions in projects of nation building and collective self-expression organized along (dis)similar narrative +/or political lines?
3. Hey, Maris: What's the deal with anthropology and the museum/exhibition? Is it fair to think them equally as 'salvage' operations (to borrow James Clifford's term), as well as different kinds of reflection on the West's imminent 'obsolescence' (be it lamented or planned)? Does anthropology offer methods and philosophies of collection that contest such a dim view of its enterprise? (Of course, none of our other disciplines should feel immune from a critique of its implication in troublesome motives of preservation and display; but since anthropologists are out in the field, their exposed to the direct hits.)
4. In the 'musealogical' (ouch!) critique exemplified by several of our writers, the museum is considered an effect of modernization, a response to the loss of stable values and conventions that 'traditional' societies ensured through ritual, epic, and relatively unchanging economic relations. It is cognate with the 'discovery' of historicity (by, say, Vico and Herder), and indicates (in its extreme, 'postmodern' formulation, as per Nora) the death of memory. What do we do, then, with the presence, say, of the imperial art collection in the Song dynasty (Watson, 9), unless we take recourse in describing 'modernity' as very free-floating trope of historical imagination and desire? Less glibly, does the museum presuppose a philosophy of history expressing or reflecting a break with tradition, or can the impulse to collect and display cultural artifacts express an array of historical, narrative, performative dispositions?
5. Foucault-inspired writers (e.g., Nora, Bennett) tend to see collections and commemorations as state-strengthening practices serving the ends of "legitimate" authority across changing conditions of "power-knowledge"; less persistently suspicious writers (e.g. Samuel, Connerton, Watson) locate such practices in a more amorphous terrain of cultural activities, suggesting that even state-supervised spaces and spectacles can generative what Canclini terms "hybrid" effects and meanings (cf. Menocal's propositions about 'lyric'). Aside from expressing our own inclinations toward paranoia or possibility, how can we best discriminate among these visions of agency and constraint operating in diverse institutions of collective memory?
E.G., are these models generated from distinctive interpretations of the history/memory relation to which Paul drew our attention last week? Do they reflect contrasting understandings of "the nation," its derivation(s) and destination(s)? Do their competing positions together express something about what is "thinkable" (in Trouillot's sense) about memory, history, and (collective) agency in the present?
6. Several of our writers--Bennett; Canclini; Watson; Paine; et al.--note that putatively "secular" sites--those defined by various energies of 'revolution,' modernization, the nation-state--remain tinged by "sacred" resonances, both in its thematic content and iconic mode of signification. Does "memory-work" (Paine) register a disturbance in the oft-presumed narrative of secularization (with its substitutions of "art" for "ritual," "history" for "myth," representation for performance, instrumentality for essence, industrial for symbolic "capital," etc.)? Does the evolution of cultural memory contest other (accounts of) social development?
7. Much of our reading turns on the status of 'authenticity,' the identification of 'natural' as opposed to manufactured value that nevertheless legitimates explicitly cultural aspirations. Do the practices under review, which generally entail a dialectic of exhibition and concealment (e.g., vis. panopticon and panorama or Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City), identify and regulate authenticity in (dis)similar ways? E.G., is there one notion of temporality, one relation of object(s) to their 'past' and to the 'present,' that governs disparate stagings in heterogeneous contexts? When 'interruptions' or 'revolutions' in social power stake fresh claims to authenticity, does iconoclasm precede and/or constitute the display of those claims, and does that demonstration necessarily repeat the formal structure of what it supposedly surpasses?
8. To different extents, some of our writers--e.g., Connerton, Samuel, Bennett, Canclini, Paine--suggest that what is remembered may be as crucial to the process and effect of memory as who, why, when, and how remembrance occurs--i.e., they implicitly pose the question, are there critical differences in remembering ideas, events, stories, scenes, sensations, and artifacts? Does remembrance of certain elements better serve certain kinds of projects (conservative, insurrectionist, etc.)? E.G., are some objects of memory more susceptible to evocations of nostalgia, others to narratives of futurity?
9. Trouillot's discussion of the Haitian Revolution (or is it the "Haitian Revolution"? or the HaiXian RevoXution?) intimates that rather than consider the "rupture" of Enlightenment, modernity, or European Revolution to be the constitutive moment of historical consciousness we think of Middle Passage and its aftermath as generating a more defining 'interruption' of Western 'tradition.' What might be consequences of this spatio-discursive shift for our discussion of history and/of memory?
**To what extent are questions like those posed above determined by shifting contextual circumstances (place, nation, period, and other contingencies), and to what extent are they susceptible of structural analysis? [Cf. Watson's distinction between reading the public sphere as "social action" and as "text"?]**