Core projects

Suma Qamaña is an Aymara concept that precedes and gives rise to "Vivir Bien", a category widely used as a philosophical contribution of Indigenous peoples in Latin America.

This series of short films explores the multi-faceted nature of niu: from its origins to its many different kinds of uses and abuses in the present and into the future. The intention is to shed light on a tree that is referred to by many island people as the “tree of life”.

In recent years, museums have begun to come to terms with their contested histories. Colonial-era collections have attracted increased scrutiny, raising questions about care, custodianship...

This project analyzes the transformations and entanglements of conceptualizations and practices of Indigenous sovereignty, native governmental institutions, and the negotiations of both in a multilayered decolonizing process.

Since Europeans registered Rapa Nui in their navigation charts, under the name of Easter Island, it has become a place of scientific investigation and ethnographic collecting. During the 19th century, this island also turned into a place of economic exploitation: Many inhabitants were deported to Peru as slave labour, and later...

The arrival of the first Western visitors on Easter Island, as today’s Rapa Nui was named in the 18th century, coincided with a time of crisis and scarcity. Obtaining objects brought along by navigators seems to have been more important than the value of objects given in exchange.

Contemporary Sāmoa is an anomaly in the sense that it is separated into the independent state of Sāmoa and the un­incorporated U.S. territory of American Sāmoa. At first sight, then, there exists two Sāmoas. Yet, both political entities have grown out of and continue to be organized through the relations between multiple islands...

Island gigantism is understood as a biological process through which the size of an animal species isolated on an island increases drastically in comparison to its mainland relatives. Insular dwarfism is the opposite process of large animals evolving a decreased body size when their population is limited to a small environment...

Affiliated projects

This CAS research focus studies and experimentally enacts the relationship between materiality, museo­logy and know­ledge. Museums were constitutive of academic disciplines that engage with different kinds of materiality, such as anthropology, archaeo­logy, art history and natural history. Yet, with the development...

Museum futures

Material cultures of ethnography and natural history as archives of environmental knowledge

This “LMU Cambridge Strategic Partnership” project addresses material cultures of natural history and ethnography, focussed on collections in Germany and the UK, and considers the co-constitution of natural and anthropological collections.

Markus Mailopu and the II. Freiburg Moluccan Expedition

Reassembling, reactivating and redistributing ‘anthropology’s interlocutors’ through the archive

Postcolonial debates around ethnographic and archival collections have spurred initiatives of provenance research and calls for restitution. Still comparatively little attention has been paid to the complexity of ethnographic knowledge production and the connected histories of ‘anthropology’s interlocutors.’

In recent years, ethnographic museums in Germany and other European countries have been engulfed in a controversial debate about the colonial provenance of their collections. This debate – as much as it rightly makes ongoing colonialism a topic of discussion – tends to systematically universalize specific regimes of value, particularly capitalist property and cultural heritage. We believe, however, that conceptions of how things are valued must be pluralized in a double sense.

PhD projects

Collaborative conservation practice: Wishful thinking or viable method?

A comparative study at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) and the Museum am Rothenbaum – Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK)

This PhD project will address conservation’s contributions to the opening up of museum practices to Indigenous approaches, and to the decolonization of museology in Germany and beyond.