março, 2025

12marTodo o dia14Decolonizing Museums and Colonial CollectionsInternational Conference(Todo o dia) Portugal, TBATipologia do Evento:Conference,Open calls

Detail of the poster for the international conference “Decolonizing Museums and Colonial Collections: Towards a Transdisciplinary Agenda and Methods”. 12 to 14 March 2025. The poster includes a photograph of a colourful wood and straw basket.

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Detalhes do Evento

Transdisciplinarity as a vital tool and framework for reimagining museums and their colonial collections from an inclusive and decolonial perspective. Deadline: 30 April 2024.

 

Decolonizing Museums and Colonial Collections
Towards a Transdisciplinary Agenda and Methods

 

 

Set to take place from 12 to 14 March 2025, in Portugal (the city is yet to be confirmed), this international conference is a collaborative effort between colleagues from the Institute of Contemporary History (NOVA and Évora University, Portugal), Queens College, City University of New York (USA), University of São Paulo (Brazil), and Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford (UK), supported by TheMuseumsLab.

The conference will delve into the theme of transdisciplinarity as a vital tool and framework for reimagining museums and their colonial collections from an inclusive and decolonial perspective. Globally, there is a growing movement fuelled by public demand to decolonize museum institutions. However, practical strategies for decolonizing museums and addressing their colonial collections are often lacking in discussions.

Transdisciplinarity has emerged as a response to the growing complexity of contemporary issues in society and must also be invoked to deal with the complexity of decolonization and the processes of collection documentation and rethinking of the ‘captive’ objects held in museums. To undiscipline museums and adopt a novel approach to documenting, curating, and presenting colonial collections, there is a need for future museums to be receptive to diverse ways of knowing, both within and beyond academia. Consequently, through case studies from around the world, this conference aims to disseminate transdisciplinary experiences and methodologies related to museums and colonial collections, fostering a more inclusive and informed approach to preserving and presenting historical knowledge.

 

 

 

Call for papers

 

We welcome submissions on topics such as:

  • Colonialism and power dynamics
  • Provenance research
  • Object, material culture biographies
  • Restitution, repatriation, and reparation
  • Collections development and care
  • Decolonization and reinterpretation
  • Exhibitions, and representing hidden and untold stories
  • Representation and identity memory and healing
  • Cultural appropriation and ownership
  • Education and awareness

 

SELECTION PROCESS

Expressions of interest should be emailed to the conveners in English for consideration for oral presentation. Selected contributors will be invited to participate in a pre-conference workshop, scheduled to be held online in September 2024, aimed at further developing their contributions for potential inclusion in an edited volume focusing on “Museums and Colonial Collections: Advancing a Transdisciplinary Agenda, and Methods”. We strongly encourage early career researchers and individuals from underrepresented regions of the world to submit their contributions. We are prepared to offer technical support as needed. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for guidance or additional information. All submissions must be original and not previously published.

Expressions of interest should include the following details:

  1. Title of the proposed paper
  2. Last and first name of the author/s
  3. Affiliation of the author/s (acronyms must be avoided)
  4. Contact details: e-mail, telephone number, postal address
  5. Abstract of the paper (300 to 400 words)
  6. Keywords (maximum 5)
  7. Short biography of the author/s (max. 50 words)

The abstract must be sent to this email address 2025conferencetransmat@gmail.com

 

IMPORTANT DATES

18 March 2024: Call for abstracts
30 April 2024: Deadline for submission of abstracts
30 May 2024: Abstract acceptance
15 November 2024: Full paper submission
12 – 14 March 2025: International Conference

 

 

Organisers:

 

Elisabete Pereira, IHC — University of Ébvora / IN2PAST (Portugal)
Robert T Nyamushosho, Queens College, City University of New York (USA)
Marília Xavier Cury, Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia, University of São Paulo (Brazil)
Lennon Mhishi, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford (UK)

 

Concept Note

 

Globally, there is a widespread and ongoing movement driven by public demand to decolonize museums and their collections. Nonetheless, the practical application of decolonizing museums and their collections is often conspicuously absent from many discussions. As always, the precise interpretation of decolonization in the context of museums remains a subject of ambiguity, both conceptually and in practice. Does it entail the restitution of stolen artworks or objects? Does it involve the recruitment of individuals from diverse racial backgrounds and the inclusion of indigenous voices merely as a symbolic gesture in exhibition design? Whilst the notion of decolonization lacks a clear definition, it is undeniable that a shift in museum institutions towards diversified perspectives on the cultures they represent is critical. Crucially, most decolonial thinkers concur that this diversification must transcend the confines of so-called ‘experts’ and the prevailing colonial narratives. It should aspire to reconstruct the museum as a platform for inclusive dialogue and engagement at all levels of decision-making.

A novel and critical approach to dismantling Eurocentrism in museums and collections research involves the development of a strategic transdisciplinary agenda. This agenda empowers museums to reimagine their collections and transition from being possessors of objects to becoming custodians of those collections. By integrating various forms of knowledge into the museum’s practices, encompassing natural, ethnographic, historical, and archaeological artefacts, museums can avoid perpetuating colonial attitudes and behaviours. This approach also facilitates a comprehensive process of repatriation and restitution in meaningful ways where they are most needed.

Transdisciplinarity, unlike interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity, recognizes multiple levels of reality and encourages collaborative problem-solving across different segments of society. It is a practice-oriented approach that promotes the participation of various stakeholders, particularly those possessing local knowledge or external to academic institutions, fostering mutual learning and enriching the collective knowledge base (Häberli et al., 2001; Nilsson Stutz 2018; Rigolot 2020; Zierhofer and Burger 2007). Transdisciplinarity has emerged in response to the growing complexity of contemporary issues in society and must be invoked to deal with the intricacy of decolonization and the processes of documenting collections and the restitutions of ‘imprisoned’ objects. Historically, academic disciplines and departments were established to specialize in distinct domains of knowledge, providing scientific solutions to concrete economic and societal issues.
However, for understanding and solving some of the most important, complex, and difficult issues we face, whether in environmental protection, formulating inclusive public policies, accommodating religious and cultural pluralism, or dealing humanely and respectfully with objects from former empires held in European museums, transdisciplinarity methodologies must be required. Drawing upon validated expertise from various disciplines and other specialized knowledge domains, transdisciplinarity amalgamates diverse viewpoints and contributions toward a shared objective (Klein, 2015; Augsburg, 2014; Levy, 2011; Jants, 1970; Rigolot 2020; Scholz and Steiner, 2015). This approach necessitates collaborative action and entails “border work,” fostering intercommunication both within and outside academia (Horlick-Jones, Sime, 2004; Mignolo, 2000; Nilsson Stutz, 2018).

Within the context of museums stemming from former colonial powers and their intricate transnational collections, this book/conference underscores the significance of organizing and providing access to these collections through a transdisciplinary approach. It is argued here that museums, as trusted societal institutions, must depart from conventional curatorial practices, embracing transparency and the public dissemination of their collections, whether they are archaeological, archival, ethnographic, or natural history collections. This process necessitates the acknowledgment that some objects were acquired through violent means or from affluent donors who amassed their wealth from colonial empires. Decolonization is a subject of intense debate and complexity, entailing discussions of cultural issues and taking into account the various layers of knowledge tied to museum objects, their historical contexts, and the stakeholders engaged in their collection and
exhibition.

Cameron and Mengler (2009) underscore that the traditional museum knowledge system is rooted in an 18th-century classification and objectivity paradigm, which shapes how collections are documented, interpreted, and portrayed. This system, entrenched in disciplinary hierarchies, often presents colonial collections as exotic curiosities and novelties. Many of these objects either find themselves on display or languish in museum storerooms, embodying cultural traditions that colonial governments and Western-style museums actively discouraged and misrepresented. This has led to a neglect of the cultural traditions and knowledge systems from which these collections originated.

Accessing this knowledge and engaging with the communities from which it emanates is crucial for a more profound understanding of global history and its complex cultural legacies. The process of collecting and studying these artifacts requires the amalgamation of diverse disciplinary perspectives and the fusion of information, data, theories, and methodologies to create a synthesis that transcends individual disciplines. This process also involves capturing diverse narratives surrounding collections and their circulation.

In colonial territories, the systems of local knowledge production were disrupted, resulting in generational memory loss and knowledge imbalances. Separating objects from their original communities and distorting their meanings led to enduring memory losses and knowledge asymmetries that persist unaddressed to this day. These imprecise interpretations persist in museums, which often overlook the significance and contexts of these objects, disregarding the potential contributions of the communities of origin in reshaping Eurocentric museums and knowledge institutions (Scholz and Steiner, 2015).

Museums, traditionally employed as colonial tools, have played a pivotal role in shaping identity formation and legitimizing a Eurocentric and hierarchical worldview as universally applicable. However, they must transition from being passive repositories, merely housing vast collections of objects and treasures from diverse cultures around the world. The responsibilities of museums extend to the collections they curate, the voices they represent, and the knowledge systems they embody. This necessitates a transformation in consciousness and the adoption of a new paradigm that acknowledges historical biases in museum practices and narratives, striving for a more inclusive future.

This new paradigm involves adopting a transdisciplinary approach that transcends the confines of individual disciplines in pursuit of a unified understanding of knowledge and the proposition of solutions for contemporary issues such as racism and discrimination.

In order to undiscipline museums and adopt a novel approach to documenting, curating, and presenting collections, this book/conference advocates for future museums to be receptive to diverse ways of knowing, both within and outside the academic sphere. It aims to represent hidden and untold stories, advocating for transdisciplinary research that allows researchers and research subjects to collaborate on an equitable footing. This approach enriches knowledge and understanding without favoring any single investigator or actor over another. As museums navigate these changes, various projects, such as “Looking both ways,” (Crowell et al., 2001), exemplify the transdisciplinary approach by offering an inclusive opportunity for all interested individuals to participate and contribute to the research process, yielding valuable results in combating the coloniality of knowledge. This book/Conference contributes to the dissemination of transdisciplinary experiences and methodologies related to museums and colonial collections, fostering a more inclusive and informed approach to recording, preserving, and presenting knowledge about the past. Globally, there is a widespread and ongoing movement driven by public demand to decolonize museums and their collections. Nonetheless, the practical application of decolonizing museums and their collections is often conspicuously absent from many discussions. As always, the precise interpretation of decolonization in the context of museums remains a subject of ambiguity, both conceptually and in practice. Does it entail the restitution of stolen artworks or objects? Does it involve the recruitment of individuals from diverse racial backgrounds and the inclusion of indigenous voices merely as a symbolic gesture in exhibition design? Whilst the notion of decolonization lacks a clear definition, it is undeniable that a shift in museum institutions towards diversified perspectives on the cultures they represent is critical. Crucially, most decolonial thinkers concur that this diversification must transcend the confines of so-called ‘experts’ and the prevailing colonial narratives. It should aspire to reconstruct the museum as a platform for inclusive dialogue and engagement at all levels of decision-making.

A novel and critical approach to dismantling Eurocentrism in museums and collections research involves the development of strategic transdisciplinary working methods. This agenda empowers museums to reimagine their collections and transition from being possessors of objects to becoming custodians of those collections. By integrating various forms of knowledge into the museum’s practices, encompassing natural, ethnographic, historical, and archaeological artifacts, museums can avoid perpetuating colonial attitudes and behaviours. This approach also facilitates a comprehensive process of repatriation and restitution in meaningful ways where they are most needed.

 

REFERENCES

Augsburg, T. (2014) – “Becoming transdisciplinary: The emergence of the transdisciplinary individual”. World Futures, 70(3-4), 233-247.
Cameron, F.R., Mengler, S. (2009). “Complexity, Transdisciplinarity and Museum Collections Documentation”. Journal of Material Culture, 14, 189 – 218.
Crowell, A. L., Steffian, A. F., & Pullar, G. L. (Eds.). (2001). Looking both ways: Heritage and identity of the Alutiiq people. Fairbanks, AK: University of Alaska Press.
Dieleman, H., Nicolescu, B., Ertas, A. (ed.) (2017) – Transdisciplinary & Interdisciplinary Education and Research. Atlas Publishing.
Häberli, R., Bill, A., Grossenbacher-Mansuy, W., Klein, J. T ., Scholz, R.,& Welt i, M. (2001). Synthesis. In J. T . Klein, W. Grossenbacher-Mansuy, R. Häberli, A. Bill, R. Scholz, & M. Welt i (Eds.), Transdisciplinarity: Joint problem solving among science, technology, and society: An effective way of managing complexity. Berlin: Birkhäuser Verlag.
Horlick-Jones, T., Sime, J. (2004) – “Living on the border: knowledge, risk and transdisciplinarity”. Futures 36 (2004);
Jantsch, E. (1970) – “Inter-Disciplinary and Transdisciplinary University – Systems Approach to Education and Innovation”. Policy Sciences, 1970. 1(4): p. 403-428.
Klein, J. T. (2015). “Reprint of ‘Discourses of transdisciplinarity: Looking back to the future”. Futures, 65, 10-16.
Leavy, P. (2011) – Essentials of transdisciplinary research: Using problem-centered methodologies. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast.
MacClancey, J. (Ed.). (2002). Exotic no more: Anthropology on the front lines. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Mignolo, W. D. (2000) – Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking. Princeton University Press.
Nilsson Stutz, L. (2018). “A future for archaeology: in defense of an intellectually engaged, collaborative and confident archaeology”. Norwegian Archaeological Review, 51(1-2): 48- 56https://doi.org 10.1080/00293652.2018.1544168
Nicolescu, B. (1985). Nous, la particule et le monde. Paris, France: Le Mail.
Nicolescu, B. (2008). “Transdisciplinarity: History, methodology, hermeneutics. Economy, Transdisciplinarity” Cognition, 11(2), 13-23.
Rigolot, C. (2020). “Transdisciplinarity as a discipline and a way of being: complementarities and creative tensions.” Humanit Soc Sci Commun 7, 100. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-020-00598-5
Scholz RW, Steiner G (2015). “The real type and ideal type of transdisciplinary processes: part II—what constraints and obstacles do we meet in practice?” Sustain Sci, 10(4): 653–671.
Zierhofer, W., and Burger, P., (2007). “Disentangling transdisciplinarity: an analysis of knowledge integration in problem oriented research”. Science Studies, 20 (1), 51–74.

 

Poster for the international conference “Decolonizing Museums and Colonial Collections: Towards a Transdisciplinary Agenda and Methods”. 12 to 14 March 2025. Open call with deadline for abstract submission on 30 April 2024. The poster includes a photograph of a colourful wood and straw basket.

 

Tempo

março 12 (Quarta-feira) - 14 (Sexta-feira)

Localização

Portugal

TBA

Organizador

Several Institutions

X