Wayne Modest

Wayne Modest

Prof. dr. Wayne Modest is the Head of the Research Center for Material Culture, the research institute of the Tropenmuseum, Museum Volkenkunde and Africa Museum. He is also professor (by special appointment) of Material Culture and Critical Heritage Studies in the faculty of humanities at the VU University Amsterdam. Modest was previously, head of the curatorial department at the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam; Keeper of Anthropology at the Horniman Museum in London, and Director of the Museums of History and Ethnography in Kingston, Jamaica.

He has held visiting scholar positions at the Yale Centre for British Art, Yale University and the School for Museums Studies, New York University. Wayne Modest’s work is driven by a concern for more historically contingent ways of understanding the present, especially in relation to material culture/museum collections. His research interests include issues of belonging and displacement; material mobilities; histories of (ethnographic) collecting and exhibitionary practices; difficult/contested heritage (with a special focus on slavery, colonialism and post-colonialism); Caribbean Thought. More recently Modest has been researching and publishing on heritage and citizenship in Europe with special attention for urban life, and on ethnographic museums and questions of redress/repair.


Some of his publications include “We’ve Always Been Modern: Museums, Collections and Modernity.” Museum Anthropology 35(1). 2012, “Material Bridges: Objects, Museums and New Indigeneity in the Caribbean.” Seeking Bridges: Anthropology and Indigenous/Native Studies (Routledge, 2012), “Museums, African Collections and Social Justice (with Helen Mears)” in Museums, Equality and Social Justice (Routledge, 2012), and “Slavery and the (Symbolic) Politics of Memory in Jamaica: Rethinking the Bicentenary” in Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums (Routledge, 2011). Museums and Communities: Curators, Collections, Collaborations (Bloomsbury Academic Publishers, with Viv Golding, 2013); Museums, Heritage and International Development (Routledge, with Paul Basu, 2013); Anxious Politics in the European City (with Anouk de Koning, eds.). Special issue of Patterns of Prejudice 50(2). 2016. His co-edited publication (with Tim Barringer). Victorian Jamaica  will be published by Duke University Press in 2018.

Head Research Center for Material Culture