11 January 2016

Call for papers: Politics of museological cooperation between Africa and Europe in the 21st century

Thomas Laely, Patrick Emory Effiboley, Birthe Pater
In the current debates both in social anthropology and museum studies, critical analyses of the history and the present role of ethnographic museums can be observed. There are doubts about the current potential of ethnographic museums to overcome their colonial legacy, which was acquired during the time of their establishment and the many decades after. Thus, the majority of the collections do not simply represent material culture of foreign world regions but also bear testimonies of local ideologies, colonial practices and inequalities. The legacy of colonial rule, racism and the emergence of a global capitalism are deeply rooted in the structures and functions of collections. Besides, the former claim to represent “the others” – the people of the peripheries and their cultures stored and exhibited in the centre (Europe or North America), painfully reveals the asymmetric relations between these institutions and the communities of provenance. The claim to present cultures from an objective, encyclopaedic angle by displaying their material culture in a showcase, has basically failed – in today's understanding.

However, within Europe, new questions were fueled by the preparations of setting up the Mus̩e du Quai Branly in Paris, the new MRAC in Tervuren as well as the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, involving African museum experts. The claim to involve African practitioners and scholars as well, goes undisputed in this context Рin order to bring local museums on the continent into the focus of exploration. Although there have been numerous international co-operations between African and European museums, only few of them could live up to the claims of post-colonial critique. Either those co-operations were mainly unidirectional displaying European exhibitions in African museums or aiming at the coaching of African institutions in relevant fields such as conservation, restoration, or curating, and thereby following a development approach. Others were undertaken on a mere consulting level of knowledge exchange with afropolitan museologists in Europe. Only few collaborations focused on the practical implementation of a joint project, based on local expectations, goals and needs of all involved parties.

In the proposed panel, questions shall be raised as: What are the conditions and effects of cooperation between museums in Africa and Europe today? How does North-South museum cooperation effect on the future of the ethnographic museum – in Africa and Europe? How do we collect, interpret and impart material culture in the 21st century? Do shared narratives exist and how are they produced? How does urbanity translate into museum work, exhibitions, audience, perception, and vice-versa?

Whereas the communication on the conference is in French only, for our museum panel we gladly expect proposals for contributions in English as well.
Proposals for individual contributions to a panel have to be submitted online up to 15 January 2015 latest on the site  The final inscription date to attend the conference will be mid March 2016.
Under this link, you find all information needed to submit a paper or just taking part at the conference

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