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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes

The Anthropology of Museums

Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes poses a number of probing questions about the role and responsibility of museums and anthropology in the contemporary world. In it, Michael Ames, an internationally renowned museum director, challenges popular concepts and criticisms of museums and presents an alternate perspective which reflects his experiences from many years of museum work.

Based on the author’s previous book, Museums, the Public and Anthropology, the new edition includes seven new essays which argue, as in the previous volume, that museums and anthropologists must contextualize and critique themselves – they must analyse and critique the social, political and economic systems within which they work. In the new essays, Ames looks at the role of consumerism and the market economy in the production of such phenomena as worlds’ fairs and McDonald’s hamburger chains, referring to them as “museums of everyday life” and indicating the way in which they, like museums, transform ideology into commonsense, thus reinforcing and perpetuating hegemonic control over how people think about and represent themselves. He also discusses the moral/political ramifications of conflicting attitudes towards Aboriginal art (is it art or artifact?); censorship (is it liberating or repressive?); and museum exhibits (are they informative or disinformative?).

The earlier essays outline the development of museums in the Western world, the problems faced by anthropologists in attempting to deal with the often conflicting demands of professional as opposed to public interests, the tendency to both fabricate and stereotype, and the need to establish a reciprocal rather than exploitative relationship between museums/anthropologists and Aboriginal people.

Written during the course of the last decade, these essays offer an accessible, often anecdotal, journey through one professional anthropologist’s concerns about, and hopes for, his discipline and its fu

230 pages

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition

Preface to the First Edition: Museums, the Public and Anthropology

1. Introduction: The Critical Theory and Practice of Museums

2. The Development of Museums in the Western World: Tensions between Democratization and Professionalization

3. Dilemmas of the Practical Anthropologist: Public Services versus Professional Interests

4. What Could a Social Anthropologist Do in a Museum of Anthropology?: The Anthropology of Museums and Anthropology

5. How Anthropologists Stereotype Other People

6. How Anthropologists Help to Fabricate the Cultures They Study

7. The Definition of Native Art: The Case of Willie Seaweed

8. The Emerging Native View of History and Culture

9. De-Schooling the Museum: A Proposal to Increase Public Access to Museums and Their Resources

10. Are Museums or Anthropology Really Necessary Any More?

11. World’s Fairs and the Constitution of Society: The Ideology of Expo ’86

12. The Big Mac Attack and the Anthropology of Everyday Life

13. Cannibal Tours, Glass Boxes, and the Politics of Interpretation

14. Museums in the Age of Deconstruction




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