Maisons Tropicales/Maisons Coloniales
Maisons Tropicales/Maisons Coloniales: contesting technologies of authenticity and value in Niamey, Brazzaville, Paris, New York and Venice
by Christoph Rausch, member of the MACCH steering committee, in the International Journal of Heritage Studies
This article draws on multi-sited anthropological fieldwork to analyse institutional practices of producing cultural authenticity and value under conditions of globalization. It focuses on the ‘re-discovery’ of three so-called Maisons Tropicales as modern architectural heritage in Niamey and Brazzaville. These prototypes of a colonial building project were subsequently translocated, commoditized and displayed as modern works of art in Paris and New York. The article describes the global connections and disconnections between the actors involved, claiming that the alternative practices of appropriating the Maisons Tropicales rely on competing and conflicting technologies of authenticity and value. Adding to scholarship on exchanges of material culture, as well as on the production of cultural authenticity and value, the article reframes debates in heritage studies pertaining to the ethics of site-specificity, material integrity, and integrity of place; preservation, conservation, and restoration; restitution and repatriation; as well as questions of cultural identity and the notion of a ‘shared’ colonial heritage. Ultimately, the article re-contextualizes the Maisons Tropicales in their (post-)colonial legacies. It concludes that critical interjections by artists and ethnographers suggest potential to reassemble the dominant technologies of authenticity and value in the fields of art and heritage preservation.
Keywords: Global Heritage Assemblages, Technologies of Authenticity and Value, Contemporary Art and Culture Collecting, Modern Architectural Heritage, Africa