The Voice of Things

Twitchin, Mischa. 2019. The Voice of Things. Antropologia Museale(43), pp. 7-11. ISSN 1971-4815 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The idea of letting objects in ethnographic museums “speak for themselves” is generally regarded with deep suspicion, as to admit that things already afford knowledge of their users disturbs cultural suppositions about the relation between subjects and objects, or the animate and inanimate. Some things, however, are evidently media for the knowledge of “authorities” other than museum curators – such as ancestors, or even gods. Any question concerning the voices of things (whether they be of spirits or conservators, advertisers or masqueraders) depends, moreover, on a prior question: that of hearing and also, within sound, that of touch. What conditions of listening to objects are engaged by their exhibition in museums – before they are ventriloquised by the contemporary mediation of apps and QR codes (never mind old-school audio-guides)? The claim for “augmented realities” (whether virtual or participative) is not defined by such new media, after all, but is already evidenced by the old media preserved in ethnographic collections. The question of such objects’ mythopoetic voices – in this article, those of African masks – is not limited to one of provenance (nor simply of restitution), but includes their life as “art” in Western museums testifying to both the diaspora and an Afropean modernity.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)



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Date Deposited:

08 Dec 2020 11:05

Last Modified:

08 Dec 2020 11:05

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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