Re: name of museum

Adrian Tanner (atanner@MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA)
Wed, 4 Jan 1995 11:56:29 -0330

On Tue, 3 Jan 1995, maureen korp wrote:

> A wee bit of correction...the former Museum of Man in Ottawa
> was renamed several years ago (five? six?), the Canadian Museum
> of Civilization / Musee Canadien des Civilisations.
[stuff deleted]

> Maureen Korp, PhD
> University of Ottawa
> mkorp@uottawa

I suppose this nomenclature proves that any word you might think of can
have is problems. I have always been uncomfortable with a 'museum of
civilization', simply because of the well-established existence in the
common language of a division between civilized and uncivilized peoples.
Moreover, in more precise scholarly speech, the concept of civil society
as an historical and typological rubicon, dividing different types of
human society, has a certain intellectual credibility and usefulness. If
the museum staff tell me that they are using the term civilized to refer
to all humanity, I say (a) you do not, thereby, erase the common-sense
elitist implications of the term, with some people ('civilized') looking
down their noses at others ('uncivilized'), and (b) you effectively
prevent scholarship, especially that associated with this museum, from
making use of the objective distinction between those forms of society
which have the characteristics we call civil, and those who do not.

To quote a bit of ancient radio humour:

"Income tax me no pay - rather be a cannibal any old day.
Me no like Mr Bevin [the post-WWII U.K. minister of finance] - me
uncivilized - thank Heaven!" Tommy Hanley

Happy New Year, All
Adrian Tanner