Ethnographic collections, Amazonia, Cultural policies, Musée du Quai Branly, Culture


Over the past decades, museums, particularly the large Euro-American ethnographic ones, have had trouble developing adequate presentations of Amazonian cultural productions. To some extent, this failure can be seen as a side effect of a more general trend—namely, the widening rift between museums and the discipline of anthropology. However, I will argue that the mismatch between the museum context and Amazonian indigenous peoples and cultures also draws on the former’s difficulty in understanding and adhering to the idea of museums, as opposed to other Western technologies of visualization and transmission. The aim of this conference, drawing both on my experience as an Amazonianist anthropologist and on my involvement with the national French ethnographic museum, the Musée du Quai Branly (MQB) in Paris, is to illustrate these overlapping mismatches, to explore the reasons behind them, and finally to offer some thoughts on how museums could turn these misunderstandings to a productive use.