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Prof Susanne Kuechler

Prof Susanne Kuechler

Professor of Art and Anthropology

Head of Department

Dept of Anthropology

Faculty of S&HS

Joined UCL
1st Oct 1991

Research summary

Kuechler has conducted long-term fieldwork in both island Melanesia (New Ireland, Papua New Guinea) and in Eastern Polynesia (Cook Islands). Anthropological fieldwork was accompanied by extensive research into ethnographic collections.

A period of 2 years of field-research on the North-west coast of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea led to a long-term and systematic research into collections of sculptures and allied ethnographic collections from the area, known as Malanggan, and a theoretical interest in the relation between art and memory, visual analogy and transformation, material translation, intuition and empathy. These themes were initially investigated in relation to Melanesian ethnography and used to critique ‘image blind’ theories of exchange. More recently, comparative and theoretically focused research has led to work on the representational logic of sacrificial economy. Most of this research is written up for publication as part of manuscript under preparation.

Research on Malanggan provoked further study into innovation, design and social change as part of a collaborative research project involving the British Museum and Goldsmiths College. Clothing the Pacific examined the take-up and transformation of cloth and clothing introduced by missionaries and traders into the Pacific during the early 19th century, based on archival research and ethnographic fieldwork. Fieldwork on patchwork quilts in the Cook Islands, Eastern Polynesia, examined the effect of the uptake of a new material on society, honing in on the material, technical and cognitive processes involved in material translation and the nature of empathy with things. Recent research conducted as part of the European Project on Sustainable Development in a Diverse World examined the relation between material aesthetics and the emergence of transnational societies, bringing together data from Pacific Diaspora with comparative data collected in European cities.

Research into material translation and processes of simulation has more recently prompted a study of ‘intelligent fabrics’ prototyped in Euro-American research laboratories. Current research is directed to an ethnographic exploration of the nature and perception of materials in 21st century design. Ethnographic research is piloted into centres of research and innovation, and into sites of materials manufacture, design and marketing. The research is conducted in close collaboration with the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, London (IOM3).

A parallel running research project is directed to cognition and design, with emphasis on the materiality of algorithm, proportioning, scaling as informing technical processes and calculation.

Küchler held posts at the University of East Anglia and Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, before joining UCL in 1991.  

Teaching summary

Kuechler is teaching both at the undergraduate and postgraduate level on the anthropology of art and design. She is co-teaching the Masters Programme in Material and Visual Culture, which developed out of a Masters Programme in Art and Anthropology which she created during the early 1990's, and has set up the new Masters programme in Culture, Materials and Design, taught between anthropology and archaeology, due to start in 2011. She is also acting Head of Department (2010-2015).

Education

London School of Economics and Political Science
PhD, Anthropology | 1985
Freie Universität Berlin
MA, Anthropology | 1981

Biography

Susanne Küchler obtained her PhD in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences in 1985 working under Alfred Gell. Her earlier training had involved teaching in social anthropology both at the Free University of Berlin and at the LSE, with three consecutive periods of internships at the Übersee Museum Bremen (Germany).  Küchler held posts at the University of East Anglia and Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, before joining UCL in 1991.  She has been invited Scholar to the Getty Centre for the History of Art and Humanities 1995/96, and invited Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg) in Berlin.
Publications