Animate Things (Workshop)

Power and Agency in Pre-Columbian and Modern Latin America

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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.


Tuesday, 5. February, 2013

Location: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum

11.30 Anne Slenczka (Cologne) 

Guided tour through the exhibition “The Divine Heart of Things: Pre-Columbian Art from the Ludwig Collection” (Meeting point: near front desk)

12.30 Lunch Break

Location: Internationales Kolleg Morphomata

14.00 Dietrich Boschung (Cologne)

Welcome Address

Karoline Noack (Bonn)

Animate things - Connecting the Americas

14.30 Jennifer von Schwerin (Bonn)

Animate architecture: Maya temples and ritual objects as ‚living‘ agents of power


15.45 Coffee Break


16.00 Elvira Espejo (La Paz)

Animate textiles in the Bolivian Andes as political and social agents in History and today

17.15 Final discussion (until 18.00)



Elvira Espejo is a Bolivian artist, poet and researcher who combines artistic practice and academic reflection. She is specialised in Andean textiles and is also member of the directors' board of the Instituto de Lengua y Cultura Aymara in La Paz, Bolivia.

Karoline Noack is a cultural anthropologist and specialized in Andean Studies, with a thematic focus on transcultural processes in a historical perspective. She is Professor at the Department of Cultural Anthropology of the Americas at the University of Bonn.

Jennifer von Schwerin is a historian of Ancient Mesoamerican Art and Architecture. She worked as an Assistant Research Professor at the Department of Art and Art History of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and is now Research Associate at the German Archeological Institute in Bonn.

Anne Slenczka is a scholar of Mesoamerican Studies, museologist and guest curator of the current special exhibition “The Divine Heart of Things: Pre-Columbian Art from the Ludwig Collection” in the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World in Cologne.




Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World, Cologne,
Cäcilienstr. 29-33, 50667 Cologne, Germany

Internationales Kolleg Morphomata Centre for Advanced Studies University of Cologne Weyertal 59, (Back Building, 3rd floor) 50937 Cologne, Germany

Concept: Larissa Förster, Karoline Noack, Anne Slenczka

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