Lena Muders
© Lena Muders

Lena Muders, MA

University of Bonn
Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Research Associate in Research Group
Marking Power: Embodied Dependencies, Haptic Regimes and Body Modification
Niebuhrstraße 5
D-53113 Bonn


“Andean Skulls - Sensitive Bodies and Embodied Dependencies in Museum Contexts”

In my research project on “Andean Skulls - Sensitive Bodies and Embodied Dependencies in Museum Contexts” (WT), I investigate the handling of human skulls from the Andes in museum institutions in from an anthropological perspective. While I conduct ethnographic fieldwork in and on museums, I cover perspectives and knowledge of experts from museum institutions in Germany and Bolivia with their respective entangled scholarly and museum history. I examine human-thing-relations and embodied experiences of dependency in the moments of collecting, keeping, researching and exhibiting of musealized Andean skulls, who interact with living persons as sensitive “objects” or liminal subjects. Though my emphasis lies on the present, historical contextualisation is necessary to understand the subject-subject/object-relationships that are changing across time and space. I hence raise the following questions: How are Andean skulls in museum institutions constituted as “sensitive objects” or subjects? How can they be handled when repatriation is not an option? How far does their cultural background and current cultural context in the museum impact their handling: whose moralities, knowledge and world perception are considered and to what extent? How do debates and practices of handling of skulls reflect, (re)produce or deconstruct strong asymmetrical dependencies in the context of museum institutions, knowledge management and knowledge production in German and in Bolivian museum institutions?


  • 2020–2023                 Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology, Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 2016–2020                 M.A. in Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Marburg, Germany
  • 2012–2016                 B.A. in Anthropology and Archaeology of the Americas, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 2014–2015                 Anthropology and Archaeology, University of San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia

Academic Position

  • 2020–present             Research Associate in Research Group Marking Power: Embodied Dependencies, Haptic Regimes and Body Modification
  • 2018–2019                 Tutoring at the Institute for European Ethnology, University of Marburg, Germany
  • 2017–2020                 Student assistant, Ethnographic Collection, University of Marburg, Germany
  • 2015–2016                 Student assistant, Archaeologic and Ethnographic Collection (BASA), University of Bonn, Germany

Participation in Centers, Scientific Associations, Collaborative Projects

  • 2019                             Organization of a panel at the international conference "Visions of Future in the Americas", June 12–14, 2019, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 2019                             Curatorial Committee, Exhibition "Kollision Azteken Spanier 1519", Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany
  • 2015                             Curatorial Committee, Exhibition "Azteken Einst und Heute", Bonner Altamerika-Sammlung, Germany

Selected Publications

  • "Ihr, meine Farben, sollt mich schmücken, noch im Tod": Eine Ethnographie des Couleurbandes der Studentenverbindungen. In: Schweitzer de Palacios, D., Muders, L., Kaviany, S. (eds.): Am Anfang war das Objekt: Die Ethnographische Sammlung der Philipps-Universität Marburg und die Annäherung an ihre Gegenstände. Frankfurt a. M. 2020.
  • Pflanzen – Menschen – Tiere – Götter. In: Muders, L., Braun, K., Hüpper, N.K., Haslach, M. (eds.): Kollision 1519 Azteken Spanier: Begleitbuch zur Ausstellung des Lehrforschungsprojekts im B.A. Vergleichende Kultur- und Religionswissenschaft der Philipps-Universität Marburg. Marburg 2019.
  • Ein Vaterunser aus Ton. In: Herkenrath, K., Becker, T. (eds.): Rheinische Wunderkammer: 200 Objekte aus 200 Jahren Universität Bonn 1818–2018. Göttingen 2017.
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