The meaning of political culture for museum cooperations
Birthe Pater  1@  
1 : Anthropology and African Studies  (IfEAs)  -  Site web
Forum universitatis 6 55099 Mainz Germany Tel +49 (0) 6131-39 25054 -  Allemagne

The focus of this paper is on a long-term cooperation at the Cultural Museum Centre Karonga (CMCK) in Northern Malawi, a museum on regional history. I examine the extraordinary ownership of three diverging groups equally laying claim to this regional museum: the government represented by the Ministry of Culture, a highly organized elderly association of former civil servants and, international researchers and museum makers. It is constituted as a partnership between public and private stakeholders within the country and from Europe.

The museum in Karonga is located about 900 km away from Malawi´s commercial city. It was built in the area where significant hominid fossils were discovered by the Hominid Corridor Research Project (HCRP) in 1992. Simultaneously, jointly ideas with the local elite unfolded to generate a public understanding of the new knowledge: a museum for Karonga was inaugurated in 2004. In cooperation with museum makers from Europe an exhibition on natural history and cultural /social history was developed and activities are vibrant until today. The CMCK represents one out of other emerging museum initiatives along research projects in the East African Rift.

Despite the common approach to analyse local museums from the perspective of identity construction, the museum sheds light on a contact zone (Clifford 1997). This paper elaborates on the question which topics emerge in museums with the presence of transnational stakeholders? What can we learn about the constitution and meaning of African museums? The platform for various actors triggers a particular politication of this cultural institution. The study highlights, that this cultural institution provides a contested space (contact zone) for political culture on the intersection of the local, regional, national and transnational level. More specifically, the museum integrates the local power structures and hierarchies while offering a direct, alternative link to the central state in a setting of local level politics.


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