What Dwells There? Some Reflections on the Houses that Hold Worlds

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Olivia Maria Gomes da Cunha


Museum visitors partake in the effect of what we can call the domestication of the view. They witness the constant changes in how objects are allowed to exist in a museological space. In this way, visitors are challenged to cultivate new sensibilities that simultaneously reveal and conceal things and their relationships. These meanings have been subject to political debates, controversies, disputes, and conflicts around property rights involving museum representatives and other actors. As a result, the domesticated things inside the museums threaten to displace themselves, moving towards the uncertainty of other shelters and other hands. Each time other flows and movements towards other ‘homes’ are asserted by different sort of groups and communities to reclaim or ‘bring home’ objects previously obtained through a mixture of pillaging, acquisitions, donations, and violent actions, distinct voices ask the same question: whose home? By exploring a case concerning the restitution of objects outside and inside museums, this article explores an alternative understanding of the notion of the house as a legitimate relationship between materiality and those worlds in which objects dwell. In the first sections, to explore the idea of heterotopy coined by Michel Foucault from an anthropological perspective, I return to some interpretations of notions such as ‘home’ and ‘house’ drawing on classical ethnographies. Secondly, I focus on what Ghassan Hage calls a ‘diasporic lenticularity’ to explore other “modes of existing” in multiple places and realities. Finally, I conclude by revolving distinct cases concerning museum practices and reallocation processes, transforming and (re)creating new spaces to locate and house unstable objects and presences.

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Gomes da Cunha, O. M. (2024). What Dwells There? : Some Reflections on the Houses that Hold Worlds. Journal of World Philosophies, 8(2). Retrieved from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/iupjournals/index.php/jwp/article/view/6122