Material Burma: The Missionary Exhibit and Its Object Resonances


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation assesses and traces the legacy of the Burmese portion of the AMNH Missionary Exhibit of 1900’s inventory of Burma. These artifacts were not just expressions of a new context, but were technologies that created the context anew. Objects contained information about Burma, and acted as agents in the relationships between specific missionaries, anthropologists, and Burmese. The Exhibit shaped inventories of Burma now at the periphery of anthropological knowledge. The study follows the contours of the collection’s history by considering how identities are produced in contemporary cultural museums, and ultimately it contributes to our understanding of the missionary imagination and its material entanglements, as well as to the politics of cultural identity in museums today.