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Museumizing Imagination
December, 2018 Planner: 鄭文琦 Creator: Au Sow Yee

(Cover Art: Au Sow Yee’s “The Broadcast Project: A Many Splendored Thing of the Coconut, a Belle from Penang and the Secret Agent“, 2018)

Interlinked with one another, then, the census, the map and the museum illuminate the late colonial state’s style of thinking about its domain. The ‘warp’ of this thinking was a totalizing classificatory grid, which could be applied with endless flexibility to anything under the state’s real or contemplated control: peoples, regions, religions, languages, products, monuments, and so forth… The ‘weft’ was what one could call serialization: the assumption that the world was made up of replicable plurals. The particular always stood as a provisional representative of a series, and was to be handled in this light. This is why the colonial state imagined a Chinese series before any Chinese, and a nationalist series before the appearance of any nationalists.

— Benidict Anderson, “Imagined Communities”

Through the official nationalism, Benedict Anderson questioned; instead of the peoples on the eastern coast of Sumatra are in proximity of, across the narrow Straits of Malacca, the populations of the western littoral of the Malay Peninsula, in terms of distance, ethnicity, languages and religions, “these same Sumatrans share neither mother-tongue, ethnicity, nor religion with the Ambonese, located on islands thousands of miles away to the east. Yet during this century they have come to understand the Ambonese as fellow-Indonesians, the Malays as foreigners.” (Chapter 7) In a more nuanced manner, the re-evaluation of Japanese Colonial Archive of Photography also enable us to exam the engineering of the museum in Taiwan, how could it construct today’s imagination of the island aborigines, moreover, of the Austronesian peoples, through the envision of the “inner others”. From the encounters connected by these residential programs of Nusantara Archive, can we initiate the process of decolonising museum(s) of related archives?

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