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FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam

Between Worlds and Knowledges: The Liminal Life of Adrian Jacobsen

Alternative title: Mellom kulturer og kunnskapsforståelser: Adrian Jacobsens liminale liv

Awarded: NOK 3.2 mill.

What characterized early ethnographic collecting and what did the transition from amateur, autodidactic activities to academic, disciplinary scholarship imply? What kind of practices did early ethnographic collecting consist of and what may an investigation of these practices reveal in terms of indigenous agency? With these perspectives as point of departure I have studied the activities of (Johan) Adrian Jacobsen (1853-1947) from Risøya outside Tromsø, a landowner?s son and initially the captain of a hunting and sealing boat sailing the Arctic sea who became a trusted and internationally renowned ethnographic collector. Jacobsen not only helped assemble numerous important collections from around the globe. Through his longstanding relationship with zoo purveyor Carl Hagenbeck in Hamburg, the prime entrepreneur of live ethnographic displays, Jacobsen also became a major actor in bringing indigenous peoples to exhibition venues in Europe. Drawing on theories of ?translation? and the thoughts of Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stenger, I have been able to identify interesting developments and changes in the history of early ethnography and render intelligible associations and actions that may have been erased, withheld or omitted within disciplinary narratives. In this way I have been able to provide a richer and more complex description of early ethnographic collecting and live ethnographic display than what has been a tendency in much of post-colonial approaches. A research stay in British Columbia resulted in new knowledge as well as the establishment of important contacts. A workshop in Tromsø with contributors from Norway, Canada, Germany and USA resulted in the manuscript of an anthology (Trader of Traditions: Johan Adrian Jacobsen as Collector of People and Things, forthcoming). In addition, the research findings have been conveyed through lectures held in Norway and British Columbia, through articles and interviews published by Norwegian and German press and contributions to a documentary Polarfox in Tromsø is producing on Jacobsen (Captain Adrian, forthcoming). In June 2018 a travelling exhibition based on the project opened at the Polar Museum in Tromsø (Storm and stillness: The Ethnographic Enterprises of Adrian Jacobsen). The exhibition contains as sound piece (Noah Angell, For the good wind) that will be turned into an LP.

The main topic of this project is the history of Norwegian traveler and collector (Johan) Adrian Jacobsen (1853 -1947), one of the most remarkable characters in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century world of ethnography and ethnographic exhibitions. Without any formal training or academic position, "Captain" Jacobsen, as he was referred to, became an important collector for museums in Europe and the United States. He also became a major actor in the exhibition of living peoples in zoological gardens and folk shows by assembling at least six indigenous troupes for the German animal dealer and zoo purveyor Carl Hagenbeck: Inuit from Greenland (1877), Sami from Norway (1878 and 1926), Inuit from Labrador (1880), Nuxalk from the American Northwest Coast (1885) and Oglala-Sioux (1910). Jacobsen's collecting career unfolded at the threshold between amateur ethnography and professional anthropology, and the rise of the latter eventually disconnected him from scientific and museum establishments that earlier had praised him as the "prince of collectors". The first objective of this project is to explore Adrian Jacobsen's role as collector and cultural broker and to examine how his richly documented activity also may shed light on the issue of indigenous agen cy in the world of collecting and living display. The second objective is to use his career as a case for investigating the relationship between popular/amateur activity and disciplinary scholarship and to explore the dynamics and constraints of disciplin ary formations.

Funding scheme:

FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam