Call for Papers: Western Museumscapes and the Political Aesthetics of Decolonisation

Carol Dixon will chair a 90-minute conference session on decolonial scholar-activism by African and Diasporan artists, curators and educators working with collections of ethnography and works of fine art in Western museums. This session forms part of the forthcoming programme for the 6th biennial network conference Afroeuropeans: Black Cultures and Identities in Europe, University of Tampere, Finland, 6 – 8 July 2017.

If you would like to propose a research paper, show a portfolio of work, or suggest an alternative multi-media presentation for consideration, please draft a 250-word abstract in response to the following overview:

Session: Western Museumscapes and the Political Aesthetics of Decolonisation: African and Diasporan Arts Activists Agitating for Change

"Anthropomorphic head" (Benin, c. 14th -16th century), displayed in the Pavillon des Sessions at The Louvre. Photo: Carol Dixon
“Anthropomorphic head” (Benin, c. 14th -16th century), displayed in the Pavillon des Sessions at The Louvre. Photo: Carol Dixon

Overview:
High-profile museums and galleries in the West – such as the British Museum in London, the Pompidou in Paris, and the MoMA in New York – are continuously revising and developing new strategic plans  to ensure that their collections, cultural programmes and exhibiting practices are engaging increasingly diverse global audiences. At the heart of these developments are complex issues about the changing nature of acquisitioning, curation, display and interpretation of artworks and cultural objects described as permanent holdings. The policies and practices implemented by these institutions serve as catalysts for generating and sustaining a rich discourse that invites artists, researchers, curators, archivists, educators, scholar activists and other creative practitioners to question their own roles and responsibilities within such dynamic museumscapes.

In this panel discussion, museologists, art historians, contemporary artists, scholars, educators and cultural  commentators from around the world will come together to discuss these issues with reference to one (or more) of the following questions:

  • What aspects of 21st century curation help to transform museums and galleries into inclusive spaces for display?
  • How are ‘postcolonial’ and ‘decolonial’ curatorial perspectives being advocated and articulated within contrasting Western museumscapes?
  • Do artists, academics and activists with African and Diasporan heritage have a unique contribution to make towards progressing the discourse and practice of museum decolonisation?
  • Which individuals and institutions are currently demonstrating aspects of best practice in relation to anti-racist and decolonial dialogues within Western museums and galleries? How might their positively transformative approaches be re-applied in other cultural contexts, museal spaces and alternative exhibiting environments?
Slave Auction (1982), by Jean-Michel Basquiat, displayed at the Pompidou, Paris, in 2014. Photo: Carol Dixon
Slave Auction (1982), by Jean-Michel Basquiat, displayed at the Pompidou, Paris. Photo: Carol Dixon

All proposals (max. 15 minutes duration) should be sent directly to the conference convenors at the University of Tampere, Finland, within the submission period (1 November 2016 to  24 February 2017). Your correspondence should be sent via the website: http://www.uta.fi/yky/en/6thafroeuropeans/index.html

Informal queries about this session can also be sent directly to Carol Dixon (in advance of the deadline) via this feedback form on Museum Geographies. Please remember to include a reply email for a response to your questions and comments.

To read Carol Dixon’s overview about the previous session on “Memory and Museums” at the 5th biennial network conference, held at the University of Münster, Germany (2015), please click on this link.

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Carol Dixon

Carol Dixon is an education consultant and academic researcher interested in African and Caribbean diaspora histories and heritage, cultural geography, museology and contemporary visual art. Her PhD dissertation is titled "The 'othering' of Africa and its diasporas in Western museum practices" (University of Sheffield, UK).

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