Paul Basu: "Museum Affordances: Activating West African Ethnographic Archives and Collections through Experimental Museology"

Departmental Seminar Series features Paul Basu, Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS University of London.

The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!


The Museum Affordances project contributes to ongoing debates about the relevance of ethnographic museums and collections in the present. In particular it explores what ethnographic archives – objects, photographs, sound recordings, writings – assembled in the colonial era afford for different stakeholders in postcolonial, multicultural times. How might such colonial collections contribute to contemporary decolonising agendas? In order to explore these possibilities, the project team has been experimenting with the archival legacies of a series of anthropological surveys undertaken by N. W. Thomas in West Africa between 1909 and 1915. Paul Basu discusses some of the approaches being used to activate these archives with different communities in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the UK – from ‘reassemblage’ to ‘recirculation’ and ‘reconfiguration’. He provides insight into the project’s findings so far. For further information about the project please see

Research profile

Paul Basu is Professor of Anthropology at SOAS University of London. His research interests centre around spatial, temporal and intercultural dynamics. Much of his work is strongly interdisciplinary, drawing upon historical and archaeological approaches as well as ethnographic methods to investigate local understandings of the past and its relationship with the present and future. He has long-standing interests in the history of anthropology and its intersections with colonialism. He originally trained and worked as a filmmaker, and has curated, designed and led various museum- and exhibition-based projects. His recent publications include the books The Inbetweenness of Things (Bloomsbury, 2017), Museums, Heritage and International Development (Routledge, 2015, with Wayne Modest) and a special issue of Social Anthropology on ‘Utopian Archives, Decolonial Affordances’ (2016, with Ferdinand de Jong). Publications

Published Dec. 7, 2018 2:10 PM - Last modified Aug. 8, 2019 3:35 PM