The politics of representation and collaboration : El Río, a Smithsonian folklife festival and traveling exhibition

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The problem of representation has been a contested issue in both contemporary anthropology and the museum field. I analyze the development of a Smithsonian festival and exhibition called “El Río: Culture and Environment on the Rio Grande/río Bravo Basin” to explore the following questions. Is it possible to disconnect modern representational practices from the historical roots of human display for entertainment? Can the individuals represented speak for themselves within this framework? It is extremely difficult to disentangle current representations from nineteenth century exhibition with the use of the same presentational techniques. However, the El Río festival and exhibition curators are using interaction and collaboration as methods for the inclusion of peoples that previously had no say in institutional representations of their cultures



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