Lucas da Costa Maciel

Lucas da Costa Maciel

Honorary Postdoctoral Student, Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship

Research Interests

Heritage, Gender and Sexuality, Indigenous Politics, Shamanism, Museum and Collections


PhD in Social Anthropology, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
M.A. in Social Anthropology, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil
M.A. in Art History, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
M.A. in Rural Development, Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, Mexico

Research Summary

Their research consists of an ethnography centered on the process of converting a museum into a decolonization tool. More specifically, it focuses on the transformation and de-patrimonialization of indigenous collections at the Mapuche de Cañete Museum in Chile, an institution currently run by professionals of Mapuche origin.

During the Chilean state’s military annexation of Indigenous Mapuche territories in the 19th century, a wide variety of items (including human remains) were looted from Mapuche cemeteries and places of spiritual significances. Many of those items ended up in the collection of Mapuche Museum of Cañete. In recent years, this museum came to be managed by Mapuche staff who began to fall sick because, according to them, the ancestral powers associated with the collections do not want to be there. From the standpoint of these staff, keeping ancestors captive, the museum re-enacts the ongoing colonialism upon which the Chilean state is grounded. Consequently, they are intent on freeing the ancestors by turning the museum into a decolonial tool. This does not simply imply a matter of repatriation but rather it involves an experiment of profound institutional transformation. The overarching goal of Lucas’ collaborative research with their Mapuche colleagues is to explore potential pathways for this transformation. Interested in describing the museums’ daily practices, the research focuses on disputes over heritage, querying the Chilean state’s ownership of what are, from the Mapuche perspective, their ancestors.

The results are aimed to be not only of academic value, but also a collaborative contribution to strengthen the museum’s decolonization. Also, it foresees collaborations between Indigenous-led organizations in Canada and the Mapuche Museum.

This postdoctoral research is supervised by Dr. Mario Blaser, Professor at the Department of Archeology, Memorial University, and is developed in collaboration with Prof. Rosa Huenchulaf, Mapuche pedagogue and Assistant Professor at the Intercultural Education Department, Universidad Catolica de Temuco, Chile.