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Native American Cultures – Self-perception and Perception by Others

New Research Project of Freie Universität Berlin and Ethnological Museum

№ 181/2009 from Jul 07, 2009

"One History – Two Perspectives": This is the title of a joint research project on Native American cultures to be carried out by scholars from the Ethnological Museum and the John F. Kennedy Institute for North America Studies of Freie Universität. The research project is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research in the amount of  438,000 euros over three years.

The indigenous minorities living in North America today are part of the North American, western culture, but they are also Native Americans or members of the First Nations. Are they then representatives of a "foreign culture"? From a European perspective, the perception of "cultural strangers" is often influenced by stereotypes and prejudices. But how do the "strangers" perceive themselves? How is it possible to translate the word "foreign" into one's own language in such a way that the perspective of the "foreign culture" is included? Is the expression "foreign" justified?

These types of questions will be addressed by a team of researchers at the John F. Kennedy Institute of Freie Universität and the Ethnological Museum. The project is aiming for new insights into the culture-specific strategy of translation of the so-called "cultural stranger." The Ethnological Museum's collection of indigenous artefacts from the northwestern coasts of North America is to be studied in collaboration with Native American communities, artists, museum curators, and scholars. The collection includes artefacts dating back to the exploratory voyages of Captain James Cook in 1778. The joint aim includes creating part of an exhibition in the Ethnological Museum in the future Humboldt Forum. The latter aspect is part of the research  group's aim to establish new, innovative trends in the issue of dealing with the "cultural other."

Further information may be obtained from:

Andreas Etges, Freie Universität Berlin, John. F. Kennedy Institute,
Tel.: +49 (0)30 /838 – 52474, Email: etges@jfki.fu-berlin.de