Category Archives: Think again

Changing of the Guards – A Homage to Mentors

image by contagiousbasti via pixabayThis is a special Tuesday. Today, we celebrate the retirement of my former professor Hans Wilderotter and this means that an era comes to an end. Now, I could take a nostalgic review because back in 1998 when I took museum studies this degree program was rather young, at least in Western Germany, the first graduates had just left the University of Applied Sciences “Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft” in Berlin. Many things were still in progress and it would be easy to glorify the good old days as a student, which would have presumably as little to do with reality as all the other good old school, post-war or any other days.

But there are things I took away from my studies, far from the professional aspects. Facts are just a small part of the taught contents, no matter if it’s a school, university or workplace. A more significant impact has the personality of the one who teaches on those who are learning. Said in a minor modification of Karl Valentin’s 1 remark: “Teaching people is useless, they will imitate you, anyway.” In spite of yourself you adopt certain quirks and idioms, adopt a certain way of seeing things or ways of solving problems. And if one of those adopted strategies lead to success, you are tempted to credit this to your own cleverness and experience. But if you are really honest and listen closely you hear the voice of a mentor. For some it is a Smith or a Miller, for me it’s an Einholz or a Wilderotter.

What they say in detail, I won’t reveal here. But I want to say “Thank You!” at this point. First of all of course to Professor Sibylle Einholz, who went into a well-deserved retirement last year, and to Professor Wilderotter. But also to all those around the world who took up the responsibility to teach people and who are passionately committed to it. That’s not only professors. There are teachers, trainers, masters or simply colleagues who pass on their knowledge and know-how. What separates you from the rest is the enthusiasm and passion for your profession as well as for the mentoring of others. How great your impact is will be realized by your students and mentorees much later – and it is likely that you’ll never know.

I wish to those who fill the shoes of my professors in the museum studies program in Berlin the same enthusiasm and courage, the same energy and eagerness to experiment but also the mental balance and endurance of their predecessors.

And of course, I wish all who have the possibility to take part in tonight’s celebration a great party and much fun!

Angela Kipp

  1. Karl Valentin: Bavarian author and humorist who said: “It is useless to educate children, they will imitate you, anyway.”

Digital Media, University Didactics and Cultural Cannibalism: Reflections of an exiled Latin professor

January 2013

“If you don’t know the answer, argue the question” (Clifford Geertz)

In anthropological language the “native” is a local being, the one who belongs to the land and is the first inhabitant of a place, whereas an “immigrant” is a stranger or foreigner who comes from the outside to take the place of the native or to occupy his territory. It’s like a Hollywood cowboys and indians movie, in which the indian is played by Elvis Presley and his indigenous mother by a latin as Dolores de los Rios!

It is interesting to note that the language of the cyberculture or the cyberspace employs, thus, the reificated concepts by occidental culture about colonialism and imperialism: in this new cybercontext, the “native” is that who was born inside a digital order and therefore reasons according to that logic, whilst the “immigrant” is being displaced from the bookish medieval-renaissance culture to the cyberculture still keeping one foot here and another there.

How this culture stays on cyberspace if we think about the large number of grammar and digital illiterate people of Latin America? Néstor García Canclini, in books such as Diferentes, Desiguais e Desconectados, Editora UFRJ, 2005, explores the contradictions of South American indigenous populations using the internet without at least being taught to read and write! As an anthropologist and educator, this seems a relevant question to be discussed: how to enter in the digital era, of global or international character, without losing regional references of Brazilian culture, inspiring me here on the stance of “cultural cannibalism” of Oswald Andrade?
As a way to stimulate my students to develop a critical sense -the goal of every college education- I’ve been developing a product of visual creation in Art-Education, in which I deal with the importance of devouring the cyberculture in a critical way and return it re-changed, according to a local “native” language. It seems to me that this remarkable question is never emphasized when it comes to speak about cyberculture: could it be possible that all the cultural statutes represented there, apparently in a democratic way obtain the same socioeconomic preponderance when swallowed?
Then, how to introduce a context of “critical cannibalism” along with the students? That is, how to awaken on them an aesthetic sense (in a platonic way) of concepts? How to make them separate the wheat from the chaff amidst the digital media crowded chaos, which is inevitably surpassed by the capitalist, imperialist and colonialist logic of the European and North American first world?
Philosophical and humanisitic questions of first order, partners: would it be possible that what a typical “digital native” thinks is relevant, pertinent, politically and ethically correct and can make the world change for best? Or, still more important, which is the real didactic contribution that the teacher’s erudite knowledge can make in relation to the majority of the sub -information transmitted by the digital media in today world?
Dinah Papi Guimaraens – PhD in Architecture and Urbanism by Universidade Federal Fluminense and Director and Associate Founder of Museu de Arte e Origens, NYC (PhD by Post graduate program in Social Anthropology -Museu Nacional- UFRJ and New York University – Museum Studies Program /Fullbright Scholar; PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, USA)
Translated by Araceli Galán