Colonial Collecting and Display: Encounters with Material Culture from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Wintle, Claire (2013) Colonial Collecting and Display: Encounters with Material Culture from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Museums and Collections . Berghahn, Oxford, UK.
Colonial Collecting and Display reframes current scholarship on the role of material culture during imperial encounters. Tracing the life of a group of objects made and collected in colonial India, it develops a new analysis of colonial discourse, working to decolonise written forms of representation and deconstruct the power relations circumscribed by imperial and nationalist historiographies. Colonial Collecting and Display follows the compelling history of a particular set of objects, formed by British travellers in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India) in the late-nineteenth century, tracing their physical and conceptual transformation from objects of indigenous use to accessioned objects in the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton and Hove. Arguing that objects have the potential to produce insight into the lives of those excluded from the written colonial archive, their points of the production, collection and display are traced to reconceptualise imperial relationships between Andamanese, Nicobarese and British individuals and communities, both in the Bay of Bengal and on British soil. The book critiques established conceptions of the act of collecting, arguing for recognition of how indigenous makers and consumers impacted upon ‘British’ collection practices, and querying the notion of a homogenous British approach to material culture in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It argues for an appreciation of the impact of media-specific techniques on the visual and textual representation of Empire, and challenges scholarly consensus on the pervasive nature of curatorial control in museums, by putting the museum visitor in the frame. While recent work has begun to document the material culture of the Islands, contemporary indigenous perspectives on colonial contact, and the histories of specific collectors, Colonial Collecting and Display is the first study dedicated to the historical collecting and display of Andamanese and Nicobarese material culture.
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