The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Seminars, Symposia, and Academic Conferences

Thursday, September 10, 2009
《Seminar》Museums of Ourselves, Museums of the Other in a Post-colonial World: A View from France
35th Seminar for the Osaka University Global COE Programme,
'A Research Base for Conflict Studies in the Humanities'
Seminar of the Center for Research Development, National Museum of Ethnology

Dr. Benoît de L'Estoile
Research Fellow, CNRS, Paris


Through the definition of its scope, its collections and the way it displays them, the museum institution effectuates an ordering of the world. Most museums, be they of art, history or culture, may be branded as 'Museums of Ourselves', insofar as they provide a narrative which embodies, in reference to a specific community, an answer to the question : " Who are we ? ". By contrast, some museums, traditionally of anthropology or Primitive Arts, may be defined as Museums of the Other, as they offer answers to the question : " Who are the Other ?".

In our post-colonial world, where the boundaries between We and the Other are continually both blurred and reaffirmed, most Museums of the Other are struggling to redefine themselves. In France, by contrast, a lavish museum of the Other, designed by the famous architect Jean Nouvel, opened in 2006 near the Eiffel Tower. The new Mus?e du quai Branly was conceived by the French President Jacques Chirac as a statement against the risk of global standardisation, hailing "cultural diversity" by displaying artefacts from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania as instances of " Primal Arts " (Arts premiers).

What does the choice to replace a museum of anthropology (the Museum of Man, inaugurated in 1938) with this new Museum say about the transformation of the " Taste for the Other " in France? What is the place of anthropologists, both as actors and as interpreters, in this changed situation ?

While focusing on the French case, this contribution is meant to elicit a comparative dialogue with the Japanese context, where the distinction between Museums of Ourselves and museums of the Other takes different forms.


Dr. Benoît de L'Estoile published Le Goût des Autres: De l'Exposition coloniale aux Arts premiers (A Taste for the Other. From the Colonial Exhibition to " Primal Arts "), Flammarion, 2007. He edited Empires, Nations and Natives. Anthropology and State-making, Duke University Press, Durham, 2005, (with F. Neiburg and L. Sigaud),

Date and Place:

10th September 2009 (Thu) 16:30 - 18:00
Room 3, 2nd floor, National Museum of Ethnology (Admission free)

Contact Information:

Anthropology, Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University
Tel: 06-6879-8085 / 06-6877-5111

General Serves Unit of the Research Cooperation Section, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan
e-mail: kenkyok
Tel: 06-6876-8209