Today’s post was written by library student ambassador Milica Vrzic. Milica is a junior theatre arts major from Serbia.
I had the honor of attending my first Faculty Pub Night during which Melody Rod-ari, Assistant Professor of Art History at LMU, discussed her chapter “Returning Home,” explaining the complexity of the issue of repatriated artworks of South Asia.
Most of the attendees were her students taking the class “Arts of South Asia” but also included other members of the faculty and staff. There were a few people from the local community who love to come to LMU often because there is always a good variety of events (and it is really convenient).
Professor Rod-ari first gave the context and brief history, outlining the major events that occurred in regards to the journey of fascinating artworks from south and south east Asia. Rod-ari revealed many layers that are crucial in understanding the systematic problems related to Euro-American colonialism and the role of politics and economics. There were a couple of amazing questions brought up that we all need to think about more. For an instance, in this era of disruptive innovations, we could ask why would one even bother going to the museum if they can see it online in three dimension from all angles. Another interesting thing she mentioned in regards to the ownership is the fact that her relatives living in Bangkok have no access to the art that is originally from there, yet her family in Los Angeles does. From there, she encouraged us to ask ourselves: how can we create the possibilities to share the art, and why would one even want to own it? Rod-ari also mentioned that her Thai decent and culture have just as much influence on her as the fact that she grew up in United States. That is important to note because as she stated it gives her an “American outlook on stuff”, which further explains why it is so important and difficult to find answer for topics like this one.
That inspired me to ask something I knew was not going to get a concrete answer to, but it just felt that this is a good place to ask and hear a perspective from someone who has been dedicated to the research. I was curious to know whether the major argument for the United States holding the ownership of numerous artworks from south and south east Asia was the fact that it is a diverse country, and that it is reasonable to have them available in the US, and not in its country of origin. I wasn’t given a direct answer; rather, I realized how important it is to have a space where we can share our thoughts and concerns, and feel that we are not alone in trying to figure it out.
Thank you, Milica, for sharing your experience and reflections with us! If you are a student interested in being an event correspondent at a library event, contact John Jackson, Head of Outreach and Communications for the William H. Hannon Library.