Marissa Petrou is Assistant Professor of History, Thelma and Jamie Guilbeau Endowed Professor of History and Director of the Guilbeau Center for Public History at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Before arriving in Louisiana, Marissa was Faculty Fellow in Museum Studies at New York University. Marissa received her PhD from UCLA, with a focus on visual culture in the history of science, medicine, & technology. She has published on the history of German anthropology, gender, photography, scientific publication and land acknowledgment. She has also co-curated numerous museum and library exhibits on artists’ engagement with science, the history of gender, race, and sexuality in medicine, and the relationship between science and the public.
As Director of the Guilbeau Center for Public History, Marissa is Co-PI of the American Library Association- and National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project, Queering the Collection: Expanding and Archiving LGBTQ+ History in Southwestern Louisiana. She is also editing a volume of essays on Shared Histories: Documenting COVID19 and the Movement for Black Lives in Southwest Louisiana, the Center’s rapid response digital archive of oral histories, digital media and webinars.
At KWI, Marissa will work on her book project, Collecting Asia-Pacific: Museums, “Race,” and the Anthropological Sciences in Imperial Germany. As European museums begin to address the harms they have and continue to cause descendant communities, this book examines the complex history behind the Dresden Museum for Zoology, Anthropology and Ethnology, which aimed to prevent such harms at its founding. This book seeks to support decolonizing work by considering how cultural resources were displayed, how and why they were acquired and how various stakeholders perceived these activities. In order to expand our understanding of the complex development of these sciences and their diverse participants, she emphasizes the importance of visual approaches to the human sciences and sciences of collection. Drawing on recent literature in Indigenous Studies, STS, Black Studies, and Jewish history, this book also considers how the anthropological project of mapping Blackness in Asia and Oceania overlapped with political and scientific debates about how to categorize German-Jews in the context of European colonialism. Research for this book draws on materials at state archives, libraries, and museums in Germany, Austria, England, the Philippines, Spain, and the United States.