The Anthropologist as Sparring Partner

Instigative Public Fieldwork, Curatorial Collaboration, and German Colonial Heritage


  • Jonas Tinius Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


anthropology, art, curating, colonial heritage, museums, ethnography, Berlin


Anthropological fieldwork is a collaborative practice, based and reliant on interactions and relations of trust and exchange. Yet, it is limited and enabled by the openings and closings, the stability and instability of relations between interlocutors, fieldworkers, and the many things that matter in between and around these relations. This article reflects on a series of public conversations called gallery reflections, which were instigated as a collaborative ethnographic practice with and within the gallery of the institute of foreign cultural relations (ifa) in Berlin-Mitte. The series addressed the legacies of German colonial heritage and the public role of anthropology against the backdrop of the construction of the Humboldt Forum and museum transformations. Investigating the notion of the anthropologist as sparring partner, this article probes into possible ways of conceiving curatorial-ethnographic collaborations as ‘instigative public fieldwork’.


Jonas Tinius, Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Jonas Tinius is an anthropologist of art, theatre, and heritage. He is associate member of the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH) at the Institute of European Ethnology of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and scientific coordinator of the ERC-funded interdisciplinary research project “Minor Universality. Narrative World Productions After Western Universalism” (PI Markus Messling, ERC Consolidator Grant). He studied and completed a PhD in social anthropology at the University of Cambridge (UK) and focuses in his work on how artists, actors, curators, and cultural organisations grapple with narrations of European and world heritage in Germany.





Tinius, J. (2021). The Anthropologist as Sparring Partner: Instigative Public Fieldwork, Curatorial Collaboration, and German Colonial Heritage. Berliner Blätter, 83, 65–85. Abgerufen von

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