Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion

Oceania at large: things, narratives, knowledge

Main content

In the essay ‘Our sea of islands’, Epeli Hauʻofa influentially argued for ‘what may be called ‘world enlargement’ carried out by tens of thousands of ordinary Pacific islanders right across the ocean’. Hauʻofa further stressed that ‘there is a gulf of difference between viewing the Pacific as ‘islands in a far sea’ and as ‘a sea of islands’.’ ‘The second’, he concluded, ‘is a more holistic perspective in which things are seen in the totality of their relationships’. In this lecture, I take up ‘things’ in their material sense, tracing their travels, which have amounted to hundreds of thousands of journeys over centuries, on a global scale beyond the Pacific. I am interested in the ways in which Oceania at large becomes constituted through the mobile relationships between travelling material things (e.g. archival records, carvings, photographs), narratives (e.g. of memory, genealogy, imagination) and practices of knowledge- and world-making across multiple localities (including their virtual manifestations).

Philipp Schorch is Professor of Museum Anthropology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany, where he leads an ERC-funded research project entitled ‘Indigeneities in the 21st Century’. He is also an Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, UK. Philipp’s research focuses on museums, material culture/history/theory, contemporary art and (post)colonial histories, the Pacific and Europe, collaborations with Indigenous artists/curators/scholars, and (post)socialisms. He is lead co-author of Refocusing Ethnographic Museums through Oceanic Lenses (University of Hawai’i Press and Otago University Press, 2020), and co-editor of Curating (Post-)Socialist Environments (transcript, 2021), Exploring Materiality and Connectivity in Anthropology and Beyond (UCL Press, 2020) and Curatopia: Museums and the Future of Curatorship (Manchester University Press, 2019).

Organizer: GOVMAT (‘The Governmateriality of Indigenous Religions’, PI Bjørn Ola Tafjord, Bjorn.Tafjord@uib.no, AHKR) in collaboration with the University Museum of Bergen (Knut Mikjel Rio) and ‘Island Lives, Ocean States’ (PI Edvard Hviding).