I started thinking: How did these masks end up as a collector’s item rather than part of the local knowledge? Should the French collector be morally obligated to return the masks to their rightful holders? Who exactly should own these pieces? Should they be part of the local commons, owned by the people? Because of globalization and the homogenization of place and people, are things being lost and appropriated to ‘lovely’ home furnishings? What exactly is the ‘right’ thing to do here?
I also had issue with how NPR presented this. Essentially they were saying, that thanks to the French collector, these artifacts were saved and not lost or damaged or buried in some ditch by the native peoples. Sending the message, at least to me, that clearly these people were incapable of preserving their own traditions. Only the white Western elite could do such preservation.
Then I started analyzing my own apartment and décor. Did I own anything that was culturally appropriated from a community or identity that I do not belong to? What about all the things I brought back from India? I tried to only buy things that were handicrafts and made specifically for consumption purposes… but what sort of message was I sending wearing or displaying such items back in the US? Were these things signifiers of wealth and ability (Look at me I went to India…)? How should I feel about this, I mean clearly my consumption in India in 2008 is vastly different than 18th century Native American masks… but still related.
Back to work... I wish I could incorporate the above thoughts and ideas into my final project, but alas, I feel its too late in the game. Also, so many types of things I'm being forced to include. So much of this writing process feels so unnatural and awkward it is probably one of the reasons I'm so miserable with it. I'm just disappointed that something I was looking forward to doing/creating for a year and a half has been one of my largest dreads for the past few months. Square pegs simply do not fit in round holes without a lot of sanding and shaving. Perfect metaphor for this paper. I've sanded it down to where I barely recognize it as my own creation. Rather it was something that was custom ordered, returned several times and continually rejected. I hate it. It doesn't make any sense outside the context of my instructor's class, nor is it an accurate reflection of my academic interests. Great job Women's Studies. Way to suck out my soul.
All will be done, for better, for worse, in two days. Maybe I'll feel somewhat human again.