Ruth B. Phillips

Canada Research Chair in Modern Culture

Tier 1 - 2003-07-01
Carleton University
Social Sciences and Humanities


Research involves

First Nations arts of the Great Lakes region since 1600; the history and theory of museum exhibition practices in Canada; visual culture as an aspect of larger processes of culture contact and colonization.

Research relevance

This research will contribute to the development of new approaches to museological and academic representations of First Nations art.

First Nations Art and Culture of the Great Lakes

As indigenous cultures seek to renew and recover traditional forms, they are increasingly contesting the Western way of doing things. In response, we are seeing a transformation in how international museums view their collections of North American objects, collections which have been in their possession since the colonial era.

Dr. Ruth Phillips is investigating the tension between Western "ocularcentrism" and other hierarchies of the senses. Her area of research is concerned with the visual and material culture of First Nations peoples. In particular, her work deals with the relationship between Native North American art history-especially of the Great Lakes and eastern woodlands-and the museum as a space of representation and cultural negotiation.

As the Canada Research Chair in Modern Culture, Dr. Phillips is studying:

 the visual and material traditions of the Great Lakes region, and particularly of Anishnabe and Iroquois peoples across the four centuries of contact with the West;

 the history of museum representation of indigenous arts and cultures in Canada; and

 the history of collecting and display in relation to broader processes of the visualization of diverse cultural identities. A key case study in this research is Esther Deer (also known as Princess White Deer), a Mohawk woman from Kahnawake who achieved fame as a dancer on Broadway and in Paris during the 1920s.