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THE MUSEUM OF OTHER PEOPLE

FROM COLONIAL ACQUISITIONS TO COSMOPOLITAN EXHIBITIONS

A vibrant cultural history.

How to exhibit humankind.

British anthropologist Kuper brings an authoritative perspective to his vigorous examination of ethnography and anthropology museums, which emerged in Europe and the U.S. in the mid-1800s. These venues displayed “an exotic world of ‘primitive’ or ‘tribal’ peoples who lived far away or long ago.” As European nations expanded their empires into Oceania and Africa and the U.S. extended itself west of the Mississippi, collectors made off with all manner of artifacts. Early British, French, and German museums often reflected a collector’s vision and the sheer abundance of their discoveries. Museums presented not only cabinets of curiosities and pillaged souvenirs, but evidence of the superiority of civilized cultures—evidence, that is, of Western progress from savage origins. The advent of evolutionary theory, though controversial, led some museums to reconsider that idea, organizing collections into cultural or geographical areas rather than on a timeline. Gradually, museums came to rely on anthropologists and ethnographers, although experts often clashed over the meaning of artifacts and the mission of a museum itself. Kuper’s deeply researched history is enlivened with sharply delineated profiles of figures such as anti-Darwinist Louis Agassiz, naturalist Jeffries Wyman, and James Smithson, the illegitimate son of a British aristocrat who willed his small fortune to the U.S. for the establishment of an institution devoted to “the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” After much haggling, Congress agreed to fund the Smithsonian Institution. The intellectual and political debates that roiled museums grew heated by the 1960s, when a “cauldron of controversy” arose “about race, colonialism, cultural appropriation and the very nature of scientific authority.” Claims for restitution of artifacts and debate over scholarship versus native expertise continue to vex curators. Strongly on the side of scholarship, Kuper advocates for cosmopolitan museums that can transcend “ethnic and national identities” and “challenge boundaries.”

A vibrant cultural history.

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN: 9780593700679

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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