A Bundle of Relations: Collections, Collecting, and Communities

TitleA Bundle of Relations: Collections, Collecting, and Communities
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsBell, Joshua A.
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology

Anthropology has always involved collections and collecting. Collections helped give rise to the discipline's formation and were integral to theoretical perspectives rooted in hierarchies of race and technology in the nineteenth century. With the disavowal of these perspectives, collecting, and its resulting collections, remained an ongoing but unacknowledged activity. The material (re)turn in the 1980s brought anthropology's material legacies under renewed scrutiny by repositioning objects as having histories and agency. Ethnographies of collecting have helped reveal the often obscured collaborations that were, and are, critical to anthropological knowledge. Collaborations with indigenous communities involving collections are helping to address the discipline's asymmetry by challenging anthropological categories and authority. In the process, experimental ethnographies through digital and nondigital means are demonstrating that collections are profoundly relational. This relational perspective is helping to chart new directions for work in museums and the wider discipline.

Short TitleA Bundle of Relations