Smithsonian curator talked on work in New Guinea at Feb. 22 dinner

Joshua Bell, Curator of Globalization and Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, spoke on “World Within: Transformations in the Art and Culture of the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea at the Feb. 22, 2014 ECWG Cosmos Club dinner.

Joshua A Bell

Bell has worked with communities in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea since 2000 documenting their engagement with, and the social, ecological and economic impacts of, large-scale logging and oil and gas exploration.

Through this work he is particularly concerned with transforming notions of history, identity and materiality, as well as how communities’ traditional knowledge are shifting. Bell’s talk will focus on the knowledge embodied in the incredible art forms and rituals of the Purari Delta, as well as how new forms of museum based collaboration can help communities struggling to retain and use this knowledge in the wake of global change.

Bell is Director of Recovering Voices, a pan-Smithsonian initiative dedicated to documenting and revitalizing endangered languages and supporting global language and knowledge diversity.

Combining ethnographic fieldwork with research in museums and archives, Bell’s work examines the shifting local and global network of relationships between persons, artefacts and the environment.

He grew up in Philadelphia. While in college, he worked on archaeological excavations in Mexico, Jordan and Tunisia. During the latter excavation, he became more interested in the lives of the Tunisian workmen and their perceptions of the past and archaeology.

Shifting to cultural anthropology at Oxford University, he carried out work on the cultural politics of architecture in Hawaii, before settling on carrying out his PhD research in Papua New Guinea where he lived for 19 months.

After earning his doctorate from Oxford in 2006, he taught at the University of East Anglia for three years before joining the Smithsonian in 2008.

At the Smithsonian he curates collections from Melanesia (New Caledonia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu), which is one of the most biologically, culturally and linguistically diverse regions of the world. In addition to his ongoing research in Papua New Guinea, he is carrying out research on the use and understanding of cellphones in the United States.

Dinners are $55 each. Reservations must be received before noon on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 by Bill Runyon, 1812 19th St. NW, Washington DC 20009, phone, 202 234-7490 or email to billrunyon@earthlink.net

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