Anthropology Occasional Seminar with guest speaker, Aaron Glass

October 29, 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Mānoa Campus, Saunders 345 Add to Calendar

“The Potlatch Ethic and the Spirit of Cannibalism: Ethnographic Mediation and the Making of a Northwest Coast Icon” Aaron Glass, PhD. Bard Graduate Center NYC. The Hamat'sa, or "Cannibal Dance," is the highest ranked sacred ceremony of the Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) of British Columbia, a people made famous through the work of Franz Boas and Edward Curtis. Within a variety of intercultural and colonial contexts, this secretive initiation rite was transformed into a highly visible cultural spectacle and an emblem of both the Kwakwaka'wakw and the whole Northwest Coast region. Drawing on a theoretical approach to ethnographic mediation, and with a special focus on the materiality of representations, I track the Hamat’sa over two centuries, across international museums and expositions, and through the global distribution of various media. This case study looks at the long term effects of anthropological and art historical knowledge (particularly its selective, recursive, and self-authorizing forms) on the formation of indigenous subjectivities. My larger project addresses the dynamics of social agency, cultural brokerage, and historical consciousness according to which indigenous people both contribute to and remediate academic, archival, and popular representations in the process of fashioning viable modern identities under lasting conditions of settler colonialism.

Aaron Glass is an Assistant Professor at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City. His research focuses on First Nations art, media, and performance on the Northwest Coast, as well as on the history of anthropology and museums. Glass’s books include The Totem Pole: An Intercultural History (co-authored with Aldona Jonaitis), Objects of Exchange: Social and Material Transformation on the Late Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast, and Return to the Land of the Head Hunters: Edward S. Curtis, the Kwakwaka’wakw, and the Making of Modern Cinema (co-edited with Brad Evans).


Co-sponsored by the Dai Ho Chun Distinguished Lecturer Series in the College of Arts & Sciences, and College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature. For further information, please contact Anthropology at

Event Sponsor
Anthropology, Mānoa Campus

More Information
Marti Kerton, 956-7153,,

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