Tropical Dissonance - KUNCI - Research Center for Material Culture
6 June 2017

Tropical Dissonance: Decolonizing knowledge through ethnographic archives

ACTIVATE Symposium | 6 Jun 2017 | Tropenmuseum

The Research Center for Material Culture together with the research platform Heterotropics organized the symposium Tropical Dissonance: Decolonizing knowledge through ethnographic archives. The symposium was organized by the research collective KUNCI Cultural Studies Center (Yogyakarta, Indonesia) as a concluding event of their residency project at the Tropenmuseum.

Tropical Dissonance

Tropical Dissonance brought together scholars, curators and artists from a wide range of practices to explore the intersections between decolonial research, artistic practices and alternative knowledge production. Focusing on the use of ethnographic objects, or more broadly colonial archives in imperial and post imperial knowledge formation, we wanted to explore the multiple, often hidden, fractured legacies of this colonial past in the present and its impact on how we understand the world today.

The contributors of this symposium discussed various methodologies of studying colonial archives and epistemologies, through different sensorial approaches and experiences.

During the symposium speakers addressed the following questions:

  1. If to study is understood as a practice of reflection that involves the interplay between learning and unlearning, what are the modes of study that we can utilize to better understand colonial pasts in the present? What modes of learning or unlearning should we employ to achieve a decolonial practice?
  2. How can we reclaim and reconfigure the ambivalence of colonial desire in its attempts to both “civilize” and “appropriate” otherness through representational economies of education, collection, dispossession and exhibition?
  3. How can we activate the ruins of ethnographic and archival gaze as a means to reorganize knowledge circulations between the tropics and the metropolis from the inside out?
  4. How do these shifting relationships affect the material life of objects (collection, commodity, archive, artefact) and practices of mediation (language, aesthetics, research)?

The symposium started with a conversation between KUNCI and Wayne Modest (Head of the Research Center for Material Culture, which took as a point of departure, KUNCI’s observations, findings and questions generated over the six weeks of the residency.

Programmer: Liza Swaving


11:00 – 12:00
KUNCI in conversation with Wayne Modest
Tropenmuseum Studio

13:00 – 16:00
Tropenmuseum Studio

The whole program was broadcast live on Radio Kunci. For videos of the event, visit the RCMC YouTube channel.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Paul Bijl (University of Amsterdam/KITLV)
  • Carolyn Birdsall (University of Amsterdam)
  • Adam Bobbette (University of Cambridge)
  • Sara Giannini (semiotician and independent curator)
  • KUNCI Cultural Studies Center (research artists collective)
  • Wim Manuhutu (independent researcher and curator)
  • Wendelien van Oldenborgh (visual artist)
  • Pamela Pattynama (University of Amsterdam)
  • Pim Westerkamp (curator Southeast Asia, Tropenmuseum/National Museum of World Cultures)

About KUNCI’s residency

The Research Center for Material Culture in collaboration with the research platform Heterotropics, invited KUNCI Cultural Studies Center to be Researchers in Residence at the Tropenmuseum for the period May – June 2017. For more information on KUNCI and the residency, please see here.

Heterotropics is curated by Sara Giannini in collaboration with TAAK. KUNCI’s residency project has been done with the kind support of the Research Center for Material Culture, Amsterdamse Fonds voor de Kunst, and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.

Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds     Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst