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Workshop and Lecture with Bruce McCoy Owens

May 23, 2019

On May 22 and 23, Bruce McCoy Owens, associate professor of Anthropology at Wheaton College, visited the HCTS to participate in a workshop on DANAM and to give a lecture on “Intangible Heritage and Visual Repatriation”. He was hosted by the NHDP project and the professorship of Visual and Media Anthropology.

During a workshop on Wednesday, May 22, members of the Nepal Heritage Documentation Project introduced Bruce Owens to DANAM, the Digital Archive of Nepalese Arts and Monuments, which has been and continues to be developed by the NHDP. After testing DANAM and Abhilekha, the document database supporting the archive, further improvements were discussed, such as the implementation of glossaries, references and other resource models.

Also initiated by the NHDP, Bruce Owens then gave a lecture the following day on "Intangible Heritage and Visual Repatriation: an ethnography of three exhibitions in Nepal".  The talk took place in the frame of Prof. Christiane Brosius´ student course "Collecting, mapping, archiving, exhibiting: practices of knowledge production".

The talk considered the various opportunities and challenges that are presented by displaying photographs that depict intangible heritage to those whose heritage is portrayed within them. Prof. Owens explored these issues as he engaged with them in the process of planning and mounting three exhibitions of photographs of the annual chariot festival of Rāto Matsyendranāth in the Kathmandu Valley in the fall of 2016. These exhibitions required that he negotiated the diverse interests of those represented as well as the interests of others he encountered in these representations. Among the issues considered were the tensions between aesthetic value and documentary accuracy; divergent aesthetic principles among viewers and subjects; privileging the past and honoring the present; practicing visual elicitation while in the process of visual repatriation; and the role of ethnographic photography in an age of photographic ubiquity and pervasive social mediatization.

Bruce McCoy Owens is associate professor of Anthropology at the Wheaton College, Massachussets, and coordinator of the Wheaton/Royal Thimphu College Partnership Program. He presented his photographs about the celebrations of the Rāto Matsyendranāthko Rath Jātrā at Photo Kathmandu 2016.

The Nepal Heritage Documentation Project (NHDP) is headed by Prof. Christiane Brosius, the HCTS professor of Visual and Media Anthropology, together with Prof. Axel Michaels, former director of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe” and founding director of CATS, the Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies. The project, based at the Heidelberg Centre of Transcultural Studies (HCTS) and in Kathmandu, focuses on the documentation of endangered historical monuments and aims at developing and implementing the first comprehensive inventory of endangered monuments.


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