Adam Kuper at Harvard Book Store


The Museum of Other People:
From Colonial Acquisitions
to Cosmopolitan Exhibitions

in conversation with ROBERT P. WELLER


April 22, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes ADAM KUPER—fellow of the British Academy and a recipient of the Huxley Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute—for a discussion of his new book The Museum of Other People: From Colonial Acquisitions to Cosmopolitan Exhibitions. He will be joined in conversation by ROBERT P. WELLER—Professor of Anthropology at Boston University and author of How Things Count as the Same and Religion and Charity.

About The Museum of Other People

In this deeply researched, immersive history, Adam Kuper tells the story of how foreign and prehistoric peoples and cultures were represented in Western museums of anthropology. Originally created as colonial enterprises, their halls were populated by displays of plundered art, artifacts, dioramas, bones, and relics. Kuper reveals the politics and struggles of trying to build these museums in Germany, France, and England in the mid-19th century, and the dramatic encounters between the very colorful and eccentric collectors, curators, political figures, and high members of the church who founded them. He also details the creation of contemporary museums and exhibitions, including the Smithsonian, the Harvard’s Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, and the famous 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago which was inspired by the Paris World Fair of 1889.

Despite the widespread popularity and cultural importance of these institutions, there also lies a murky legacy of imperialism, colonialism, and scientific racism in their creation. Kuper tackles difficult questions of repatriation and justice, and how best to ensure that the future of these museums is an ethical, appreciative one that promotes learning and cultural exchange.

A stunning, unique, accessible work based on a lifetime of research, The Museum of Other People reckons with the painfully fraught history of museums of natural history, and how curators, anthropologists, and museumgoers alike can move forward alongside these time-honored institutions.

Praise for The Museum of Other People

“A nuanced, informative look at the history, development, and future of museums of anthropology and ethnology. . . . This highly recommended work . . . challenges preconceptions and encourages readers to think critically about this complex and important issue.” —Library Journal, starred review

“Authoritative . . . [A] vigorous examination of ethnography and anthropology museums. . . . Kuper’s deeply researched history. . . . advocates for cosmopolitan museums that can transcend ‘ethnic and national identities’ and ‘challenge boundaries.’ A vibrant cultural history.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Kuper’s case is strong and his voice—erudite and elegiac—commands respect as the summation of a long and honourable life in the service of anthropology.” —Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“A provocative look at questions of ethnography, ownership and restitution . . . the argument [Kuper] makes in The Museum of Other People is important precisely because just about no one else is making it. He asks the questions that others are too shy to pose. . . . Required reading.” —Financial Times (UK)

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Adam Kuper
Adam Kuper

Adam Kuper

Adam Kuper is a fellow of the British Academy and a recipient of the Huxley Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. He was Centennial Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, a visiting professor at Boston University, and has appeared often on BBC TV and radio and reviewed regularly for The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and the Wall Street Journal.

Photo Credit: Zoe Norfolk

Robert P. Weller
Robert P. Weller

Robert P. Weller

Robert P. Weller is Professor of Anthropology at Boston University. His most recent books are How Things Count as the Same: Memory, Mimesis, and Metaphor (with Adam Seligman), and Religion and Charity: The Social Life of Goodness in Chinese Societies (with C. Julia Huang and Keping Wu). He has over forty years of research experience in China and Taiwan on topics that run from ghosts to politics, and from rebellions to landscape paintings. He is currently involved in two book projects: one on silence and haunting, and the other on the effects of rapid urbanization on village religion in China.

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