Pierre Peters

Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow

20222023 Forum on Heritage

Pierre Peters

Music; Cultural Anthropology

CAS, 2023

Pierre Li Peters (he/they) is a senior from Philadelphia, PA, studying Music and Cultural Anthropology. His primary research interests rest in ethnomusicology and cultural heritage through the lens of decoloniality and social justice. For the 2022-2023 academic year, Pierre will serve as co-chair of the Wolf Humanities Center's Undergraduate Forum, along with Penn Museum and Hoesley Digital Literacy Fellowships. Outside of the classroom, Pierre can be found playing in dive bars and open jams across the Philadelphia area or performing with Penn Lions, the University's only traditional Chinese lion dance troupe. Following a semester abroad in the United Kingdom, Pierre's research will seek to engage issues of culture, heritage, and decolonization in museum spaces through ethnographic work of musical instruments. 

BRING IT ON HOME: A Decolonial Analysis of Musical Instruments in the Penn Museum

In conversations focused on decolonizing institutional spaces – like ethnographic museums – repatriation remains a contentious goal. Whether museums are willing to change their ethics and practices to relinquish their spoils is another issue, but provenance continues to severely hinder efforts of returning objects to source communities. As such, this project reflects on musical instruments in ethnographic archives and their unique representations of cultural heritage. This research will work with literature on decoloniality and musical repatriation to understand how musical instruments carry cultural heritage. The ongoing work of musical repatriation should reconsider museum contexts by rethinking how these objects are cared for. By taking insight from musicians or other specialists, museums can start to treat instruments as objects that “breathe” and allow them to keep producing culture.