Högre seminariet: Forskningspresentation, Taming technology: An intercultural exploration of materiality, provenance, and knowledge
Torsdagen 1 juni med Emilie Wellfelt, presentation av en outline till en artikel.
Taming technology: An intercultural exploration of materiality, provenance, and knowledge
At the seminar I will present the outline of an article – work in progress! – that investigates provenance and the shifting meanings and values that are attributed to objects through histories about their origins and previous owners. In this case, provenance is observed through an object with provenance that destabilise scientific/western understandings of the concept.
The centrepiece of the analysis is a textile kept in a village in the island Alor in eastern Indonesia, a place that I, on and off, have interacted with through my research the last 20 years. The textile is attributed to a non-human weaver from the hari-people, which are believed to live in villages mirroring human society but located inside the ocean. The weaver is a named hari-woman that according to local mythology married a human man. The couple are founding ancestors to the people in the village where the textile is kept.
This spirit-made textile is an example of material culture in Alor that is ascribed with magical origins or magical properties. I argue that many of these objects and constructions represent foreign and previously unknown technology and that attributing them with magical properties can be understood as a way of incorporating foreign objects and technologies into Alor culture and society. This strategy, to familiarise the unknown via local non-human interlocutors is what I in this paper refer to as “taming technology”.
In the article I ask what the hari-woman Eko Sari and her textile tell historians about Alor history?
I also ask if Eko Sari’s textile in a general way can help shed light on the concept of provenance and the developments that this concept is currently undergoing. What does repatriation and the focus on the origin of objects do to the understanding of provenance? What happens with provenance in a time when the drive to decolonise museums has geared the focus in western institutions from collecting to de-collecting?