Katie Prinkey, MA '21, has published a paper in two parts based on research she conducted during her time in the Islamic and Middle Eastern studies graduate program at Washington University. “Cultural Colonialism at the Museum of the Bible: Have They Found Redemption?” appeared in the January 2022 issue of the Journal of the Coalition of Masters Scholars on Material Culture.
In her research, Prinkey explores cultural colonialism – the process of cultural erasure for the victims of colonialism – in relation to the Green Collection, one of the largest collections of biblical artifacts in the world. Prinkey discusses the Green family’s fraudulent trade in biblical artifacts as well as their connections to the widely condemned activities in the antiquities markets. She discusses two case studies to explore the impact of those activities on the communities from which the items were stolen.
Nancy Reynolds, professor of history; women, gender, and sexuality studies; and Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern studies, was Prinkey’s graduate advisor at WashU. “Ms. Prinkey's project turns the lens on recent cases at the Museum of the Bible, built in part with illegally acquired artifacts from the Middle East in the Green family collection,” Reynolds said. “Her paper does important work framing these controversies in the long history of cultural colonialism and artifact looting by European and North American institutions, and her work points to the larger, deeply pernicious effects of these practices in erasing the communities and the heritages from which these objects are stolen.”
Prinkey was particularly influenced by a course she took on decolonization while at WashU with Shefali Chandra, associate professor of history; women, gender, and sexuality studies; and Asian American studies. “Professor Chandra's class helped me to frame my argument around cultural colonialism and comparing the Greens to a modern-day colonizer of biblical artifacts from the Middle East,” Prinkey said. “This project is something that I kept returning to as JIMES helped build my knowledge of theory and most importantly decolonial theory.”
“Katie wrote a number of marvelous papers in my class where she really probed how to borrow from Indigenous theorization on decolonization in the Americas toward a project attuned to the histories of Asia," Chandra said. "This is a young scholar who will bridge the structural impasse between the ivory tower and the world in meaningful, respectful, and lasting ways.”
After graduating from WashU, Prinkey enrolled in the museum studies program at George Washington University. She is currently a curatorial research intern for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.