Making kin is more than metaphor: Implications of responsibilities toward Indigenous knowledge and artistic traditions for museums

Abstract

Many Indigenous communities do not regard objects as inanimate, but rather as animate kin. Based on our work as a collaborative group of museum coordinators and Hopi, Anishinaabe, and Penobscot artists, we explore narratives and kinship concepts emerging from working with collections of baskets and pottery. We question how recent theoretical conceptualizations of kinship have become overly rhetorical and, therefore, risk diminishing the tangible responsibilities that Indigenous knowledge systems teach. We explore how the new social networks forged through collaborative practices implicate museum personnel in kinship-like relationships, which raises the question: What are the critical lessons museums can learn from the work of making and sustaining kin? Conventional western museology rarely contemplates these imperatives. The implications for museums that come with recognizing such networks are not only about conceptualizing kin in new ways, but also developing shared ethical protocols and responsibilities toward Indigenous knowledge and the environment over multiple generations.

Description

© 2024 The Author(s). Museum Anthropology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Anthropological Association. This article has been contributed to by U.S. Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA. cc-by-nc-nd

Keywords

animacy and more-than-human, ethical protocols and responsibilities, Hopi, Anishinaabe and Penobscot, Indigenous knowledge, kin, museums, women artists

Citation

Isaac, G., Burgio-Ericson, K., McChesney, L., Green, A.G., Charley, K.K., Church, K., & Dillard, R.W.. 2024. Making kin is more than metaphor: Implications of responsibilities toward Indigenous knowledge and artistic traditions for museums. Museum Anthropology. https://doi.org/10.1111/muan.12283

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