transposition 512
transposition 512 ©2023 Sascha Mikloweit & VG Bild-Kunst, Video: Uni Bonn
transposition 512 (Prof. Dr. Paul Basu (UK/DE): Coloniality and collecting: extractivism and the production of knowledge – materials and material culture)
Prof. Dr. Paul Basu
University of Bonn, Institute of Geosciences, Department of Geochemistry/ Petrology, Lecture Hall, Poppelsdorfer Schloss, Bonn, Germany
Lecture Intervention
25/05/2023 | 1630h
The making, ordering and display of collections has long been central to the production of knowledge in Europe. It is no coincidence that age of European colonial expansion also gave rise to the so-called ‘museum age' of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As materials were brought back from newly claimed colonial territories, so they were transformed into epistemic objects. Separated from their original contexts, rocks, plants and artefacts became geological, botanical and ethnological specimens. As scientific reference collections they were divorced from both the context and circumstances in which they were obtained. In this presentation, Paul Basu discusses the making and unmaking of such disciplinary collections. While many anthropological museums have sought to address the coloniality of their collections for decades now, this is a recent turn in natural history, botanical and geological museums. At the same time, metaphors of extractivism familiar to critical social scientists have their literal origin in mining. Indeed, mineralogical collections, still presented as ‘neutral' scientific specimens, are arguably the most politically charged collections of all. 

Prof. Dr. Paul Basu, TRA Present Pasts, University of Bonn

Professor Paul Basu is Hertz Chair for Global Heritage at the University of Bonn. He is an anthropologist, curator and filmmaker, specialising museums, archives and other ‘sites of memory'. Much of his research focuses on the legacies of colonialism in West Africa. Prior to coming to Bonn he was Professor of Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.