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Attempts to Decolonize Knowledge Production in Museum Practice


Grigo, Jacqueline; Laely, Thomas (2023). Attempts to Decolonize Knowledge Production in Museum Practice. Recherches Sociologiques et Anthropologiques, 53(2):119-151.

Abstract

In the last decades, the pressure on museums, especially on ethnological museums in the global North, has increased considerably. They are criticized for reproducing neo-colonial power relations and knowledge orders through common representational practices. The recent debate on colonial collections and the necessity of restitution has further fueled the discussion about the role and legitimacy of museums. Ethnological museums need to fundamentally rethink their practices. Since 2015, two museums in Uganda (Kampala and Mbarara) and one in Switzerland (Zurich) have begun an unusual collaboration. They are conducting joint research in both countries, pursuing an approach of “reverse” and “reciprocal anthropology”, and creating exhibitions together in dialogue. This article provides insights into the dynamics of the cooperation process between the three museums. It addresses the challenges of collaborating on an equal footing, striven for in a transcontinental project framed by structural inequalities. Is it possible to integrate all points of view, orders of knowledge and interests? Each of the three museums involved is entangled in specific historical, economic, and political contexts that influence and limit their respective scopes of action, interests, and possibilities for assertion. Furthermore, there is always the danger that historically grown, internalized and unconscious relations of dominance come into play. Special attention is paid to the conditions and processes of knowledge creation.

Abstract

In the last decades, the pressure on museums, especially on ethnological museums in the global North, has increased considerably. They are criticized for reproducing neo-colonial power relations and knowledge orders through common representational practices. The recent debate on colonial collections and the necessity of restitution has further fueled the discussion about the role and legitimacy of museums. Ethnological museums need to fundamentally rethink their practices. Since 2015, two museums in Uganda (Kampala and Mbarara) and one in Switzerland (Zurich) have begun an unusual collaboration. They are conducting joint research in both countries, pursuing an approach of “reverse” and “reciprocal anthropology”, and creating exhibitions together in dialogue. This article provides insights into the dynamics of the cooperation process between the three museums. It addresses the challenges of collaborating on an equal footing, striven for in a transcontinental project framed by structural inequalities. Is it possible to integrate all points of view, orders of knowledge and interests? Each of the three museums involved is entangled in specific historical, economic, and political contexts that influence and limit their respective scopes of action, interests, and possibilities for assertion. Furthermore, there is always the danger that historically grown, internalized and unconscious relations of dominance come into play. Special attention is paid to the conditions and processes of knowledge creation.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:790 Sports, games & entertainment
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
Uncontrolled Keywords:conditions and processes of knowledge production, co-creation in exhibition making, decolonization of museum practice, transcontinental museum collaboration, museums in Africa
Language:English
Date:11 June 2023
Deposited On:16 Jan 2024 09:17
Last Modified:21 May 2024 20:39
Publisher:Université Catholique de Louvain
ISSN:1782-1592
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.4000/rsa.5709
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)