Crafting Identity: Connoisseurs and Collectors

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(Note: I’ve posted comments and summaries of the texts of several books that I have had in my Master’s in Communications degree. This isn’t one of them, though it is by one the professors I have had for said degree. But it is the book I have most enjoyed reading from that academic background. I am sharing my own perspective on the book, and doubtless have missed much of the scholarly point and may even have misunderstood some of it. For the scholarly among you, I apologize for that. For the rest of you, I encourage you to read more deeply than you usually do with my “scholarly” reviews. This one is more fun, and more worth it.)

Chapter Five: Indian Arts, Connoisseurs, and Collectors

This chapter is harder for me to capture on first read. At least, it isn’t as easy for me to reduce down to something for a blog: gets a bit academic.

It is another story though. Shlossberg talks about traveling to Los Angeles (Anaheim) to collect masks that another mask-maker associate of his, Juan, had on display at the Anaheim Museum. The friend had the mask on display and for sale, but they hadn’t sold as he had hoped, so when Shlossberg drove him up to collect them, they stayed an extra week to try and sell some of them before taking the rest back.

Instead, Shlossberg ended up making contacts with a lot of collectors that wanted to speak to him as an academic, but didn’t want to talk to talk to Juan as a mask maker. They saw Juan as an inauthentic maskmaker, and wanted to explain to Shlossberg why, and the sort of scholarship he should be doing.

They all depended upon various books of scholarship that supported the theories and collections that they had been making. It is sort of like a recursive loop, the book supports the mask, which supports the book. All of it follows one version or another of the Indian Tale that is at the heart of Shlossberg’s study. If the Indian Tale fell apart, so would these collector’s collections, so they have a vested interest in the orthodox version of the scholarship. Whenever someone gets the scholarship wrong in one point or another, they correct them, individually and as a group.

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