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Arts and Cultures of Star Wars

Religious, Spiritual, and Secular Identities on Campus and Beyond
Utagawa Kunisada, Yoshitsune's Letter from Koshigoe: Nakamura Utaemon IV as Gotobei, 1849, woodblock print on paper, Gift of Ruth W. and Clarence J. Boldt, Jr. 2008/2.425.3


Faculty Curator: Bryan Miller (History of Art; UM Museum of Anthropological Archaeology)

On view: Winter 2024

The Star Wars universe has a complicated relationship with colonialism. The story of rebellion against the Galactic Empire was conceived as a critique of colonial powers and their imperialistic endeavors. Although set within mythological science-fiction worlds dominated by assertive regimes, much attention in the Star Wars space operas focus on those at the margins. The designers of the clothing and equipment of the alien cultures in the film, television, and book series drew upon garments, armor, and weapons produced by people all over the world, many of them subjected to settler colonialism.

The weapons and armor pieces on display for this installation are in the collection of the U-M Museum of Anthropological Archaeology. They were selected for this installation to generate critical discussion about the representation of cultural difference and imperial encounter in the Star Wars films. Being on view side-by-side with objects in UMMA’s collection invites a more critical gaze on the ways the Galactic Empire was inspired by European and US settler colonialism.

Works Included In This Collection

Edward S. Curtis
orotone on glass
George Grosz
ink on paper
20th century
iron, wood and gold leaf
Enrique Chagoya
color lithograph, woodcut, chine collé, and collage
Toyohara Chikanobu
color woodblock print on paper, one of triptych
Toyohara Chikanobu
color woodblock print on paper, one of triptych


Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the University of Michigan Office of the Provost, Erica Gervais Pappendick and Ted Pappendick, the Eleanor Noyes Crumpacker Endowment Fund, and the Oakriver Foundation.