Meet the Postdoc: Jennifer Stampe

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Jennifer Stampe, taking a break in North Beach during the recent American Anthropological Association meeting in San Francisco.

Hello Haffenreffer Museum Student Group members!

I am Jennifer Stampe, and I’m at Brown this year as
Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology, with duties at the Haffenreffer.
I have previously taught Museum Studies at New York University and
Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, where I earned my PhD.
My teaching and research interests center on the cultural politics of
indigeneity.  Specifically, I look at American Indian
self-representation in museums and tourist sites, examining indigenous
priorities and interests, on the one hand, and asking how non-Natives
respond to new representations, on the other.  I am developing an
approach that understands indigenous self-representation as an effort
to hail, and indeed construct, a new kind of non-Native subject, one
who will be a sympathetic ally of indigenous assertion.

For my dissertation, I did ethnographic fieldwork in residence at the
Mille Lacs Ojibwe Reservation in central Minnesota.  The Ojibwe are
the third largest indigenous group in the United States; the Mille
Lacs Band won a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1999, when its
treaty-reserved rights to hunt, fish, and gather on ceded lands
without state interference were upheld.  At the same time that the
Band faced the state in court, it collaborated with the state
historical society to make a “state Indian museum” located on the
reservation into something more like a tribal museum, at a time when
the recent tribal museum movement was at its beginning.  The
redesigned Mille Lacs Indian Museum presents Ojibwe history in an
Ojibwe curatorial voice, foregrounding Band members’ own words, to
tell a story about indigenous survival.  But some problems in
interpretation remain, mostly centered on the museum’s Four Seasons
Room, a lifesize diorama of the Ojibwe industrial year.  The exhibit
is an immersive and sensory experience, an account of the past, that
threatens to trump the museum’s intended message that Ojibwe people
are still here.  My research focuses on the diverse and complex ways
that museum visitors understand this exhibit, given the larger context
of contest over treaty rights.  I also examine the intersection of
this project in representation with others at Mille Lacs, including a
public relations campaign and nascent human rights movement.  The book
I’m working on about these issues embraces a broad range of concerns,
including nationalism and tribal sovereignty, identity and
subjectivity, and power and decolonizing practice.

I am really happy to be at Brown, and have enjoyed a fall term without
teaching responsibilities.  But I’m looking forward to getting back to
the classroom in the Spring, when I’ll teach Anthropology in/of the
Museum.  The class will examine the history of anthropology, moving
from ts early years and so-called “museum age” through the more recent
crisis of representation on to current efforts at collaboration.  The
class will draw on the Haffenreffer’s collections, and will to be
organized around a series of projects that will act as a museum
practicum: these will include exercises on object, photo and archive,
and visitor research.  I expect to tailor the work of the class to
students’ interests.  Please feel free to get in touch if you are
thinking about taking the class, or if there’s anything else I can do
for you.

If you’d like to get in touch with Jennifer Stampe, you can contact her via e-mail at jennifer_stampe@brown.edu.

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