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Title: Conservation as a champion for social justice and cultural revitalization within South American Indigenous groups
Author: Franco Peters, M. R.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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Europeans’ arrival in the Americas ignited a process of colonization that produced slavery, acculturation, evangelization and the eventual extermination of many American Indigenous groups. This is still manifest in today’s social invisibility, lack of representation, and persisting stereotypes. South American Indigenous peoples seek articulations of public identities that express their cultural diversity while referring to their historic roots and communicating their contemporaneity. Collections originated by South American Indigenous peoples or related minorities can be used in more democratic articulations of history, and to enhance representation and visibility in society without compromising historic and social context. This thesis explores how conservators may facilitate these processes and how this could transform their discipline. It relates contemporary and recent contexts of conservation to the work of Paulo Freire (also Participatory Action Research advocates and Postcolonialist theorists) to illuminate the formation and maintenance of power structures and their possible reversals. Use of objects and collections is demonstrated with examples like the Bororo of Merure, the Tupinambá of Olivença (both in Brazil), and the Comuneros of San Cristóbal de Rapaz (Peru). This thesis argues that the cross-disciplinary nature of conservation and the different processes involved may provide spaces in which to articulate, negotiate and materialize new engagements. However, ideals of neutrality still implicit in contemporary conservation practice, although demonstrably misplaced, undermine such engagements. Conservation provides spaces that spawn examination and redefinition of structures of power, inside and outside the museum. The knowledge the conservation processes unveil should not be merely used to reinforce dominant knowledge but to create independent knowledge that may, in turn, reflect back on the discipline and strengthen it. Before that, conservators have to take ownership of their space and be ready to transform their own practice. Understanding the potential power entailed in the transformations provoked by conservation is part of conservators’ craft.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available