Animate Things

Power and Agency in Pre-Columbian and Modern Latin America

Locations: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World, Cologne | Internationales Kolleg Morphomata Centre for Advanced Studies University of Cologne Weyertal 59, 50937 Cologne, Germany
Concept: Larissa Förster, Karoline Noack, Anne Slenczka

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The workshop takes the current exhibition „Das göttliche Herz der Dinge. Altamerikanische Kunst aus der Sammlung Ludwig“ („The Divine Heart of Things: Pre-Columbian Art from the Ludwig Collection“) as a starting point in order to explore how objects can be understood as animate, as having not only impact but also agency in spiritual, social and political contexts. In order to discuss this approach we look at two examples from past and present Latin America: classical Maya architecture and its spiritual power on the one hand, and contemporary Andean textiles and their social and political power on the other hand. The workshop aims to link these case studies to recent theoretical and methodological approaches in the study of material culture that provide explanatory models for the conceptualisation of objects as animate and powerful.

In cooperation with: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World, Cologne and the Department of Anthropology of the Americas, University of Bonn

The workshop will be held in English and is free and public. Please register at larissa.foerster[at] The entrance to the exhibition is free for everyone who has registered.


Elvira Espejo (La Paz): Animate Textile in the Bolivian Andes as political and social Agents in history and today.

Karoline Noack (Bonn): Animate Things. Connecting The Americas

Jennifer von Schwerin (Bonn): Animate Architecture: Maya Temples and Ritual Objects as "Living" Agents of Power