Complex hybridities: Challenging constructs of race and culture in the museum
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Hybridity has become an important tool in the analysis of culture and race. The term helps curators to better understand culture and race because it functions as an alternative to purist definitions of these two concepts. In this thesis I deal specifically with the ways in which curators display their understanding of these terms, culture and race, in museums. Because of their role as places of exhibition, museums tend to shift viewers' focus to the objects displayed while undermining the systems and ideas behind these objects. In presenting cultural and racial hybridity curators have used hybridity as an alternative category instead of as a commentary on the system of classification present in museums a tendency which undermines the power of this concept. In this thesis I deal with three ways in which museum exhibitions display a simplified version of hybridity. In the first chapter I discuss the issue of cultural mixing as it relates to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. I argue that hybridity is simplified through the creation of categories that describe identities formed as a result of migration. In the second chapter I deal with the classification of race in relation to representations of multiracial people. Lastly, in the third chapter I discuss how and why hybrid objects are often excluded from museum presentation. In all of the chapters I analyze artworks, objects and exhibitions on display in order to illustrate how culture and race are not analyzed thoroughly in museums. The overall purpose of this thesis is to highlight the role that museums have in promoting ideas about culture and race and the influence they can have in representing people and their cultural products more accurately.