April 01, 2018
John Bodinger de Uriarte, associate professor of anthropology, spent the fall semester doing research in Iceland on a prestigious Fulbright fellowship. A Fulbright-NSF Arctic Research Scholar, Bodinger de Uriarte worked in Reykjavík through the University of Iceland while on sabbatical from Susquehanna, teaching two classes at the university and conducting research at the nearby National Museum of Iceland.
“I had an ongoing collegial relationship with the head of museum studies at the University of Iceland, so that helped to secure a letter of invitation, and I was well supported by Dean [Valerie] Martin and Provost [Linda] McMillin, and by colleagues in my department,” Bodinger de Uriarte says.
Though he started out with the intention to research the museum’s institutional history, after his arrival he decided to focus instead on how photographic representation and a national sense of self intersected in the museum. His research background in sovereignty and self-representation in Native museums in the United States provided a solid baseline.
“I took some of that background, especially questions about national belonging and identity, and applied them to the Icelandic context. As a settler nation without an indigenous population, Iceland has some distinct differences in how it portrays its history(ies),” he says.
The museum has a gallery devoted to 20th-century Iceland that features objects like a recreated photo studio and a photo booth. These led to Bodinger de Uriarte preparing a paper and presentation for the University of Iceland that focused on transitions in photographic practice in the 20th century, from studio portraits to self-portraits taken via the Photomaton (a photo booth), and how photographic imagery became increasingly enmeshed in the nation-state.
Based on this research, Bodinger de Uriarte wrote an article titled “Selfies, Sovereignty, and the Nation-State: ‘Into the Modern World’ at the National Museum of Iceland,” which is currently under peer review for the journal Museum Anthropology.
During his sabbatical, he also began conducting research at the Museum of Sundry Objects in northern Iceland, which is ongoing.