Thesis Info

Thesis Title
The Natural History Diorama's Trace in NatureCulture
Max Liboiron
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
SUNY stonyrbook
Thesis Supervisor
Christa Erikson
Supervisor e-mail
cerickso AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
fine arts
Languages Familiar to Author
english, french
URL where full thesis can be found
diorama, science, art, visual culture, technoscience, natural history, fetish, boundary object
Abstract: 200-500 words
When most people go to the museum of natural history, they may find something odd about the dioramas, the three dimensional models of “nature” featuring taxidermied animals in hyper-typical poses. In her critical essay “Teddy Bear Patriarchy,” Donna Haraway refers to these dioramas as “altars” to social “virtues” in science. While Haraway concentrates on using the dioramas to investigate the gender, race, and economic divisions of labor and values that go into making each diorama, this paper focuses on the finished diorama as a metaphor that for contemporary “nature,” including not only gender and race, but also the presence of science, mythology, conceptual fetishism (productive mis-locations where the program for a thing is mistaken for the thing itself) and technology. The tensions between these elements are expressed in a diorama and can be traced visually. Using the critique process common in the fine arts, dioramas can be studied and used for what they are: a boundary object (artifact where people from different communities can build a shared understanding based on discussing different interpretations of the same object) that allow a tracing of interests and desires, including those of scientists, artists, and the audience. The paper focuses on the usefulness of dioramas as an idea for investigating the visual and cultural intersections and overlaps of nature, culture, and science.