James Clifford’s significant analysis of museums as “contact zones” over two decades ago has paved the way for Indigenous groups and artists to collaborate with curators, Indigenous and non-Indigenous anthropologists as well as museum staff to produce museum exhibitions. In this presentation, I examine closely such a collaboration as the lead anthropologist/curator for the first comprehensive exhibition in Canada of contemporary Indigenous art from Australia, titled Lifelines: Contemporary Indigenous Art from Australia (Musée de la Civilisation, Quebec City,  2015-2016). I will discuss and reflect on the issues and the short-term and long-term consequences raised by the processes of co-production of cultural knowledge and identities within a museum space overseas. In the conclusion, I will touch upon the difficult task of creating protocols for best practice for museums on national and international stages, which engage too often in episodic co-production of Indigenous knowledge and identities.

About the Presenter

Françoise Dussart is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Connecticut. Trained in France and Australia, her specialties in social anthropology include Australian Aboriginal society and culture (as well as other Fourth World Peoples in Canada and the United States of America), iconography and visual systems, various expressions of gender, ritual and social organization, health and citizenship.

She is the author of La Peinture des Aborigènes d'Australie  (1993, Parenthèses and Réunion des Musées Nationaux), and The Politics of Ritual in an Aboriginal Settlement: Kinship, Gender and the Currency of Knowledge (2000, Smithsonian Institution Press). She has also edited several volumes, ‘Media matters: Representations of the social in Aboriginal Australia’ (VAR, 2006), Engaging Christianity in Aboriginal Australia (2010, with Carolyn Schwarz); Entangled Ontologies: Interpretations of relations to land in Australian and Canadian neo-settler states (University of Toronto Press 2017, with Sylvie Poirier). She is currently working on two related projects, a long-term research project, which investigates how indigenized modernity and indigenous ill-health play a prominent part in shaping neo-settler states such as Australia. Her second project is a book she is co-editing in collaboration with Dr. Sylvie Poirier (Université Laval), which focuses on contemporary Indigenous cosmologies worldwide. This book will be published by Alberta University Press in 2020.

She has curated several major exhibitions and recently the very first major presentation of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts (over 100 artworks) from Australia in Canada, at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City (2015-2016). She is working on a new exhibition on selfies in museums and art galleries for the William Benton Museum of Fine Arts (Connecticut, USA).


About Anthropology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Anthropology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of anthropological research and ideas among UQ scholars and invited researchers. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment.


Anthropology Museum, Level 1, Michie Building (09), UQ, St Lucia