Negotiating who “owns” penobscot culture

Jane Anderson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Museums, archives, and libraries are important places of re-connection and re-animation for Indigenous peoples and communities. Ethnographic collections held within these sites tell very particular histories about the colonial experience, including how Native culture was transformed into forms of exclusive property through practices of research, collecting, and documentation. The Penobscot Nation is one of many tribes grappling with the reality that it is the legal owner neither of the material culture held in institutions nor of the representations of culture, the photographs, manuscripts, and other audio visual materials that were collected by researchers over the long period of colonial engagement. As non-owners of materials that record their images, voices, histories, and ideas, the Penobscot Nation has to negotiate against the weight of powerful legal orders that reflect colonial idioms of control and authority over Native peoples and the representations of their cultures. This article explores the range of strategies that the Penobscot Nation has developed to maneuver around the legacies of legal and social exclusions in access to, and therefore decision-making about, the future uses of these cultural materials.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)267-305
    Number of pages39
    JournalAnthropological Quarterly
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


    • Agreements
    • Ethnographic collections
    • Legal exclusion
    • MoUs
    • Museums
    • Negotiation
    • Property
    • Sovereignty
    • Strategic maneuvering

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anthropology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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