The (In)Alienability of Objects and Colonial Acquisition. The Case of Maasai Ethnographic Collections at the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin
Moko, Laibor Kalanga – 2021
This paper proposes a methodological approach to the study of ethnographic collections from colonial contexts using Weiner's theoretical concept of (in)alienability. This concept is an important alternative to a biographical approach for analysing the acquisition of collections from the viewpoints of the so-called source communities. It helps anthropologists studying a complex socio-cultural context to understand bow objects are owned, valued and circulated or not circulated in order to explore how they were acquired during the colonial period. The paper presents an application of the concept of (in)alienability in exploring selected Maasai objects at the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin. Further, it presents my interlocutors' perceptions about how objects were acquired and taken to the Museum, as well as their reactions to those objects being in the Museum.