Dr Petra Tjitske Kalshoven - Research
I am especially interested in the social and cognitive dynamics of knowledge production, and how these are mediated by, on the one hand, practical skills involving manipulation of things, and, on the other, rhetoric and other forms of 'play'. My doctoral research concerned the social and performative dynamics of a contemporary amateur practice called 'Indianism', which involves crafting replicas of clothing and artefacts as well as re-enactment of slices of Native American eighteenth- and nineteenth-century life by Europeans dressed in home-made Plains or Woodland Indian outfits. Drawing on fieldwork among Indianist groups in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Czech Republic (2003 - 2004), I argued that Indianist mimesis may be understood as a heuristic process in which Indianists employ imagination, creativity, and skill to reach out to an elusive past. In Aberdeen, I elaborated on my Ph.D. research by investigating how replicas used in historical re-enactment, as artefacts situated between 'real things' and forgeries, can become powerful tools in creating social landscapes that are both virtual and real, but always imagined. This ties into a more general interest in the relations between humans, their things, and the landscapes they engage with, and in practices of art, imitation, and display, in particular miniatures and dioramas as special forms of representation.
My interest in imitative skill now drives a new project that focuses on taxidermised animals as controversial, but increasingly fashionable, presences in contemporary European private and public contexts in a bid to shed new light on shifting human-animal relations and conceptions of nature versus culture. Drawing on material culture studies and new ethnographic approaches to ‘things’, I will explore how mounted skins (both as material and as symbolic artefacts) enable hunters, taxidermists, and artists to represent and re-experience hunting lore, rituals, and skills, and serve to express landscape aesthetics and environmental concerns.