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C.P. (Carl) Deussen

Faculty of Humanities
Photographer: Julia Geller

  • Project Description

    Affects of Imperial Collecting. The Case of the Ethnographic Collector Wilhelm Joest

    What would a kind of provenance research look like that deals not only with the how, but also with the why of object provenance? In my dissertation project, I attempt to answer this question using the archive of German anthropologist Wilhelm Joest (1852-1897). In his diaries, Joest describes his often contradictory relationship with the objects he collected, of which there are more than 5000 in various European museums. Joest's longing, desire and guilt reveal a relationship between collector, objects and creator communities that goes beyond purely scientific or aesthetic considerations and points to the deeply intimate meaning of collecting in the imperial era. Inspired by Ann Laura Stoler's theoretical reflections on 'colonial intimacies', this project aims to develop an approach that makes these affects of imperial collecting visible. This will create a new approach on researching and displaying ethnographic collections, revealing not only the material history of an object, but also its emotional entanglement in the imperial social order. Through this new collector/perpetrator-centred approach, my project aims to create further possibilities for the decolonisation of ethnographic collections.

  • Publications


    with Anne Haeming. Aus Indien nach Santa Cruz durch die Ethnologie. Fragmente des Forschungsreisenden Wilhelm Joest. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2023.

    with Yagmur Karakis. Thinking About the Archive & Provenance Research. Köln: boasblogs, 2022.

    with Mary Mbewe. The Gender of Ethnographic Collecting. Köln: boasblogs, 2022.

    Further Academic Works

    “Complexly Gendered Objects: An Analysis of a Piece of Tevau Collected by Wilhelm Joest on Nendö.” Pacific Arts 23, no. 1 (2023).

    “‘To Give Away My Collection for Free Would Be Nonsense’ – Decorations and the Emergence of Ethnology in Imperial Germany.” In Material Culture in Transit - Theory and Practice, edited by Zainabu Jallo. London: Routledge, 2023.

    “The Archive of Wilhelm Joest and the Limits of Provenance Research.” In Thinking About the Archive & Provenance Research, edited by Carl Deußen and Yagmur Karakis. Köln: boasblogs, 2022.

    “An Obscure Forschungsreisender? Wilhelm Joest and the Shaping of Ethnology in Late 19th Century Germany.” BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, 2022.

    “Collecting Masculinities: Wilhelm Joest and the Masculinity of the Other.” In The Gender of Ethnographic Collecting, edited by Carl Deußen and Mary Mbewe. Köln: boasblogs, 2022.

    “‘It Is the European Who Fosters All Kind of Genital Depravity.’ Imperial Desires and the Emergence of Homosexuality in the Writings of Jacobus X.” In Unerlaubte Gleichheit. Homosexualität und Mann-Männliches Begehren in Kulturgeschichte und Kulturvergleich, edited by Michael Navratil and Florian Remele, 145–64. Bielefeld: transcript, 2021.

     with Sonja Mohr, Annabelle Springer, Caroline Bräuer. “Museen als Verhandlungsorte für Dekolonisierungsprozesse.” südostasien. Zeitschrift für Politik, Kultur, Dialog 3 (2021).

    Articles, Blogposts, Reviews

    with Christina Grübler. “Querfront oder Netzwerk? Wie transfeindliche Gefühle Linke, Liberale und Rechtskonservative einen.” Analyse & Kritik. Hamburg, 2023.

    “‘Our Colonial Heritage’. An Exhibition Review of the Tropenmuseum’s New Permanent Exhibition.” DCNtR, 2022.

    “Von Neugier Getrieben. Sammelleidenschaft im 19. Jahrhundert.” Museenkoeln. Köln, November 2021.

    “Das Privileg Der Realitätsverweigerung – Vom Kolonialismus zu „Querdenken“ und dem Sturm auf das Kapitol.” European Zeitgeist, April 2021.

    “Tagungsbericht: Museum Collections in Motion. Colonial and Postcolonial Encounters.” Provenienz & Forschung 2 (2020): 68–69.

    “The Dangers of a Comfortable Debate. A Review of Across Anthropology. Troubling Colonial Legacies, Museums, and the Curatorial by Margareta von Oswald and Jonas Tinius.” DCNtR, 2020.

    “Colonial Collectors and Their Legacy – Why Asking ‘Why?’ Matters.” DCNtR, 2019.

  • Research Interests

    Imperial history, history of affects, history of anthropology, museology and material culture, queer history and decolonial curation

  • Ancillary activities
    • Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum
      Research Wilhelm Joest