Wilhelm Joest and the Intimacies of Imperial Collecting
How could a kind of provenance research look like that not only deals with the how of object provenance, but also the why? With my PhD project, I attempt to answer this question using the archive of ethnologist Wilhelm Joest. In his diaries, Joest describes his often contradictory relationship to the objects he collected, of which today there remain more than 5000 in various European museums. Joest’s longing, desire and disgust reveal a relationship between collector and objects and creator communities that, beyond purely scientific or aesthetic considerations, points to the deeply intimate meaning of collecting in the imperial era. Inspired by anthropologist Ann Laura Stoler's theoretical reflections on "colonial intimacies", this project aims to develop an approach to make visible these intimacies of colonial collecting. This is intended to create a new perspective on provenance research that not only reveals the material history of an object but also its emotional entanglement in the colonial social order, thus revealing further possibilities for the decolonisation of ethnographic collections in addition to restitution.
Deußen, Carl. “‘It Is the European Who Fosters All Kind of Gential Depravity.’ Imperial Desires and the Emergence of Homosexuality in the Writings of Jacobus X.” In Unerlaubte Gleichheit. Homosexualität Und Mann-Männliches Begehren in Kulturgeschichte Und Kulturvergleich, edited by Michael Navratil and Florian Remele, 145–64. Bielefeld: transcript, 2021.
Deußen, Carl. “Colonial Collectors and Their Legacy – Why Asking ‘Why?’ Matters.” DCNtR, 2019. https://boasblogs.org/dcntr/colonial-collectors-and-their-legacy/.
Deußen, Carl. “The Dangers of a Comfortable Debate. A Review of Across Anthropology. Troubling Colonial Legacies, Museums, and the Curatorial by Margareta von Oswald and Jonas Tinius.” DCNtR, 2020. https://boasblogs.org/dcntr/the-dangers-of-a-comfortable-debate/.
Deußen, Carl. “‘To Give Away My Collection for Free Would Be Nonsense’ – Using Decorations to Engage with Collecting Practices in Imperial Germany.” Retour. Freier Blog Für Provenienzforschende, 2020. https://retour.hypotheses.org/812/.
Deußen, Carl. “Das Privileg Der Realitätsverweigerung – Vom Kolonialismus Zu „Querdenken“ Und Dem Sturm Auf Das Kapitol.” European Zeitgeist, April 2021. https://european-zeitgeist.net/de/kategorien/essays/wenn-verschworungstheorien-realitat-werden-vom-kolonialismus-zum-sturm-auf-das-kapitol/.
Imperial history, history of affects, history of anthropology, museology and material culture, queer history and decolonial curation