Postdoc Vacancies | Pressing Matter Ownership, Value and the Question of Colonial Heritage in Museums

VACANCIES | We are looking for 2 Postdocs 

We are recruiting for Pressing Matter - Ownership, Value and the Question of Colonial Heritage in Museums Would you like to work at the intersection of material culture studies, critical heritage studies, and colonial history? Do you have outstanding coordination skills? Please have a look at the vacancies published at Utrecht University

The four-year research project “Pressing Matter - Ownership, Value and the Question of Colonial Heritage in Museums” is collaborative across five academic institutions and five Dutch museums, working together with national, and international partners from across the world. The project is situated in the Faculty of Humanities at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, led by Prof. Dr. Susan Legêne (Project Leader) and Prof. Dr. Wayne Modest (Programme Leader), and funded by the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA).

Pressing Matter responds to the growing contestation over what to do with the colonial heritage held in museums. This growing controversy reveals the need to account for the polarised positions of these debates, ranging from scholars, activists and community members championing the return of objects to correct historical wrongs, to those who contend that objects should be retained irrespective of circumstances of acquisition by museums in light of their (universal) cultural and scientific value. In the middle are advocates of more relational heritage practices, comprising dialogue and sharing in how objects are distributed. Pressing Matter has identified various approaches to this problem, and to the different categories of collections in collaborating museums that will be the starting points for research.

Researchers start from this shared research framework, while doing research for their own individual research output, including a PhD thesis. While developing their own views and insights, they commit themselves to the overall programme through collaborative multidisciplinary approaches, based in shared access to research findings and result based research. Pressing Matter has been developed within the context of the National Science Agenda of the Netherlands. A large team of PhD candidates, postdocs, provenance researchers, museum staff, and senior academics will be organized across 8 work packages, hosted in five different universities and collaboration with five museums and several societal stakeholders.

Heritage and the Question of Conversion

One work package, titled “Heritage and the Question of Conversion” and chaired by Prof. Birgit Meyer (UU) and Prof. Peter Pels (Leiden University), will explore objects acquired through missionary collecting as a form of voluntary dispossession. The Researcher will conduct comparative research on objects collected by Catholic and Protestant missionaries in Papua (Indonesia) and in Western or Central Africa, focusing on collections from the Nationaal Museum Van Wereldculturen and Wereldmuseum. For a full description of this work package click here.

Image: Crucifix, Southwest Papua / Asmat (regency) / Delta area of Asewets, Sirets and Bets rivers / Atsy. This crucifix was probably collected in Atsy where Father Kees van Kessel worked for the Roman Catholic Mission. 7172-1