Projects per year
Pacific art and anthropology; clothing and female tattooing; art and cultural festivals; collecting and history of collections; auctions and the art market; representation and museum ethnography; West Papua; Fiji.
Key Research Interests and Expertise
Karen Jacobs’ research is interdisciplinary, combining art-historical, anthropological and museological approaches and focuses broadly on Pacific arts and specifically on the dynamic processes by which persons and objects are interrelated. Most of her research was conducted in the framework of funded international research projects. She is currently Principal Investigator in the British Academy-funded project (Re)Defining Culture: Engaging urban Fijian youth in sustainable employment opportunities in the cultural heritage sector, which is part of the Youth Futures Programme, supported under the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. Previously, she was co-investigator in the AHRC-funded research project Fijian Art: political power, sacred value, social transformation and collecting since the 18th century, a collaborative 3-year project (2011-14) that aimed to unlock the potential of the outstanding collections of Fijian art, material culture and associated photographs and archives held in museums in the United Kingdom and abroad, and its follow-up AHRC-funded project Fiji's artistic heritage: impact and engagement in Fiji (2016-17). Her particular focus was on fibre skirts (liku) and the associated female tattooing (veiqia) as worn by indigenous Fijian women in the nineteenth century. She was involved in a range of exhibitions during these projects.
In 2012-13 she was the Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded Networking Grant Who Cares? The material heritage of British missions in Africa and the Pacific, and its future, was established as a partnership between the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, and National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh, which each hosted a workshop, and the Museum Ethnographers Group, which hosted a webpage for the project. The aim of the project was to form a network of researchers, curators, representatives of UK-based missionary societies and of heritage organisations in Africa and the Pacific. During the three workshops, the network explored the contemporary issues that arise around material that derives from British Christian missions in Africa and the Pacific.
Jacobs’ research in the Kamoro region in West Papua focuses on cross-cultural encounters to expose the diversity of ways in which Kamoro culture has been communicated and constituted through the analysis of cultural representation. Particular emphasis is given to the creative and pragmatic adaptation by the Kamoro people to different forms of contact. The annual Kamoro Arts Festival, a forum for public relations, self-representation and cultural politics in a politically delicate climate, was subject of fieldwork in West Papua (2000, 2001, 2002 and 2005). More recently the focus has shifted towards patronage and corporate collecting, which was the subject of fieldwork in 2011.
Research interest keywords: Pacific art and anthropology; clothing and female tattooing; art and cultural festivals; collecting and history of collections; auctions and the art market; representation and museum ethnography; West Papua; Fiji.
Karen Jacobs is Senior Lecturer at the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, University of East Anglia. She has worked on various international research projects, focusing on the Kamoro region in West Papua, on Polynesian Visual Arts, the Arts of Fiji, and material heritage of British missions in Africa and the Pacific. Her research resulted in a range of exhibitions and publications. Exhibition projects include Pacific Encounters: Art and Divinity in Polynesia 1760-1860 (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, 2006; Paris Museé du quai Branly- Jacques Chirac, 2008), Art and the Body (Fiji Museum, 2014) and Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, 2016-17). Book projects include This is not a grass skirt (in press), Collecting Kamoro (Jacobs 2012) and Trophies, Relics and Curios? Missionary Heritage from Africa and the Pacific (Jacobs, Knowles & Wingfield 2015).
10/10/16 → 9/10/17
Jacobs, K. & Wingfield, C.
23/10/12 → 22/07/13
Fijian Art: Political Power, Sacred Value, Social Transformation and Collecting Since the 18th Century
1/05/11 → 30/04/14
The Flow of Things: mobilising museum collections of 19th century Fijian liku (fibre skirts) and veiqia (female tattooing)Jacobs, K., 19 Apr 2021, Mobile Museums: Collections in circulation. Driver, F., Nesbitt, M. & Cornish, C. (eds.). UCL Press, London, p. 303-327 25 p.
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter (peer-reviewed)Open Access
Book review: Manfredi, Robert Louis Stevenson's Pacific Impressions: Photography and Travel Writing, 1888–1894Jacobs, K., Oct 2020, In : Scottish Historical Review . 99, 2, p. 323-325 3 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Book/Film/Article review
This is not a grass skirt: On fibre skirts (liku) and female tattooing (veiqia) in nineteenth century FijiJacobs, K., 24 Oct 2019, Sidestone Press. 168 p.
Research output: Book/Report › Book
Jacobs, K., 2017, Tapa. p. 82-87
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter (peer-reviewed)