The course aims to approach objects from an anthropological perspective. Objects of the ‘others’ either inside or outside museums. Through various different teaching methods (lectures, discussions, meetings with experts), the course aims to introduce students to a critical understanding of the notion of culture in its material and non-material aspects and of what is meant by the notion of ‘social life of things’. Students are expected to actively participate in class discussions and to engage in a personal research. At the end of the course the student is expected to: a) have acquired knowledge of the categories used within anthropology to understand the processes related to the ‘making’ of cultural heritage b) be capable of making use of the acquired tools in order to approach such processes.
The course is divided into two parts. Initially the status of ethnographic objects, in and out of the museum institution will be considered. Then the course will focus on particular types of museum objects, i.e. human remains. How they become part of ethnographic collections, what status they have taken, what do they represent today? We will analyze the complex questions that these objects pose: should they be considered findings of scientific interest, or rather sacred subjects/objects, emotionally significant because they are linked to one's own ancestors? Who owns the right to speak on their behalf? We will look into these issues through some case studies related to both near and far away contexts.
1a) Dei, Fabio - Meloni, Pietro (2015) Antropologia della cultura materiale. Carocci, Roma.
1b) Miller, Barbara (2019) [Alessandra Broccolini ed.], Antropologia culturale, Pearson, 2° edizione.
2)Larson, Frances 2016  Teste mozze. Storie di decapitazioni, reliquie, trofei, souvenir e crani illustri. UTET, Torino.
3) Kopytoff, Igor, 2005  La biografia culturale degli oggetti: la mercificazione come processo. In E. Mora (a cura) Gli attrezzi per vivere. Forme della produzione cultuale tra industria e vita quotidiana. Vita e Pensiero, Mi, pp. 77-111.
Further readings :
Fine-Dare, Kathleen S. (2002) Grave Injustice: The American Indian Repatriation Movement and NAGPRA, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
Fforde, Cressida, Hubert, Jane and Paul Turnbull (eds), 2002, The Dead and their Possessions: Repatriation in Principle, Policy and Practice, Routledge, London, New York.
Milicia, Maria Teresa, Elena Canadelli (2017) Il grande laboratorio dell'umanità. Il dibattito sulla repatriation dei resti umani tra storia e antropologia. Interventi di Kathleen S. Fine-Dare, Roger Blackley, Adriano Favole, Emmanuel Kasarhèrou, Anna Paini, Fenneke Sysling, Contemporanea, Rivista di storia dell'800 e del '900, n. 1, pp. 109-146.
Social Life of Things (texts also available in English)
Appadurai, Arjun, (a cura) 1986, The Social Life of Things. Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Douglas, Mary e Isherwood Baron, 1984. Il mondo delle cose. Oggetti, valori, consumi. Il Mulino, Bo.
Kopytoff, Igor, 2005  La biografia culturale degli oggetti: la mercificazione come processo. In E. Mora (a cura) Gli attrezzi per vivere. Forme della produzione cultuale tra industria e vita quotidiana. Vita e Pensiero, Mi, pp. 77-111.
Miller, David, 2014. Cose che parlano di noi. Un antropologo a casa nostra. Il Mulino, Bo.
Final oral exam.
For those attending classes: class participation, in-class presentation and final report.
For those NOT attending classes: Final oral exam. The student is asked questions about the course readings and about the central issues and thematic aspects addressed. The student should bring with her/him the texts which s/he has studied. The final evaluation is based on 30/30.
Erasmus and international students may study the texts and take the final exam in English or French. If interested, they need to discuss the choice of the new reading materials with me during Office hours.