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Artifacts and Allegiances

How Museums Put the Nation and the World on Display

Peggy Levitt (Author)


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ISBN: 9780520961456
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What can we learn about nationalism by looking at a country’s cultural institutions? How do the history and culture of particular cities help explain how museums represent diversity? Artifacts and Allegiances takes us around the world to tell the compelling story of how museums today are making sense of immigration and globalization. Based on firsthand conversations with museum directors, curators, and policymakers; descriptions of current and future exhibitions; and inside stories about the famous paintings and iconic objects that define collections across the globe, this work provides a close-up view of how different kinds of institutions balance nationalism and cosmopolitanism. By comparing museums in Europe, the United States, Asia, and the Middle East, Peggy Levitt offers a fresh perspective on the role of the museum in shaping citizens. Taken together, these accounts tell the fascinating story of a sea change underway in the museum world at large.

1. The Bog and the Beast: The View of the Nation and the World from Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Gothenburg
2. The Legislator and the Priest: Cosmopolitan Nationalism in Boston and New York
3. Arabia and the East: How Singapore and Doha Display the Nation and the World

List of Plates
Image Credits
Peggy Levitt is Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College and a Senior Research Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University, where she codirects the Transnational Studies Initiative. In 2015, she is a Robert Schuman Fellow at the European University Institute. Her books include Books, Bodies, and Bronzes: Comparative Sites of Global Citizenship Creation, Religion on the Edge, God Needs No Passport, The Changing Face of Home: The Transnational Lives of the Second Generation, and The Transnational Villagers.
"An illuminating study that will be of interest to academics and museum professionals working in the field today."—Publishers Weekly
"Experimental — interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, self-critical, heterodox — approaches to art will have to be tried out if an audience for history, which is only as alive as our sense of investment in it, is not to be lost. (For a comparative look at some recent methods, I recommend Peggy Levitt’s 'Artifacts and Allegiances: How Museums Put the Nation and the World on Display,'"—Holland Cotter New York Times
"Levitt brings sociological expertise to provide fascinating and important insights into how museums negotiate their national and cosmopolitan remits in the face of globalization. Artifacts and Allegiances deserves to be widely read not only by scholars but also by those directly involved in museum work and in figuring out the directions that museums should take today."—Sharon Macdonald, author of Memorylands: Heritage and Identity in Europe Today

“The world is constantly shaped by how it is seen and imagined. Museums are among the basic media for this phenomenon, presenting collections by empires or nations, distinguishing art from broader material culture, offering ideas of progression, or claiming novelty. Levitt’s terrific new book shows how this process works with systematic comparisons and a thoughtful analysis. Vital for understanding cosmopolitan culture and more local contexts today.”—Craig Calhoun, Director, London School of Economics and Political Science

"A book of travel stories, a snapshot of emergent cosmopolitan art worlds, and one of the best illustrations of how a theoretically rich, multi-sited global ethnography is possible—without a trace of the jargon and pontification found in so much global social theory.”—Adrian Favell, Professor of Sociology, Sciences Po, Paris

"Unearths a story of quiet, nearly invisible, heroism as curators mount exhibitions to encourage us to appreciate cosmopolitan values and engage with cultural difference. This is a beautifully researched and crafted book written by one of the most imaginative sociologists I know.”—Robin Cohen, Emeritus Professor and Former Director of the International Migration Institute, University of Oxford

“Exhibiting the same storytelling ease that new age museums do, Levitt shows how the turnstile of the self-perceived interior and exterior of the nation, or the cosmopolitan-nationalism continuum, is located at the very heart of museums.”—Kwok Kian Chow, National Gallery Singapore

“Peggy Levitt has written a fascinating story about the various strategies and trajectories museums are taking locally in their struggle for cultural relevance in the twenty-first century. Readers are taken along on her journeys to institutions in three regions of the world and are immersed in reflections about diversity, migration, cosmopolitanism, and nationalism, about global gazes and situated ways of acting. This volume links museum studies and anthropological studies of global diversity, connecting the local to scalar connections with regional, national, and global processes.”—Thomas Fillitz, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna

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