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Guest lecture Racism and anti-racism in the western museum

Guest lecture by Dr Carol Ann Dixon (University of Birmingham, United Kingdom)Racism and anti-racism in the western museum: Perspectives from the threshold to the boardroom

Time and place: Friday 13 April 2018 at 10-12, Linna building 5026-5027, University of Tampere.

Language: Both lecture and discussion in English.


The 19th century was the peak period for museum building throughout Western Europe – seen as its ‘Golden Age.’ This era was characterised by the development of institutions such as Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford), Musée d'Ethnographie du Trocadéro (Paris), Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam) and the Ethnologisches Museum (Berlin), all constructed to house collections of colonially sourced artworks and artefacts. The display and interpretation of tangible, 3D assemblages enabled these spaces to convey an impression of scientific objectivity, truth-telling and enlightenment as their raisons d'être. Exhibition information was traditionally narrated via the disembodied, authoritative voice of the institution, which presented the dominant cultural perspectives of Europe’s elite, white male patriarchy. The gendered and racialized preferences of this privileged group were normalised and idealised to such an extent that an occidental imperialist gaze on the world ‘subalternised’ women, people of colour, disabled people and anyone from non-elite socio-economic groups as ‘the Other.’

Carol Ann Dixon will reflect on the histories, cultural geographies and political dynamics of Western museums and galleries at four key sites of interaction and engagement:

• The threshold – the initial point of entry, where visiting audiences and institutional actors meet to negotiate and ‘perform’ their respective responses to the collections and also to each other

• The exhibition gallery as a ‘raced space,’ where the cultural objects and narratives on display are open to multiple interpretations

• The archives as a repository where the collective memories of an institution are preserved

• The boardroom as a site of governance, organisational oversight and decision-making power.

Drawing on the scholarship and exhibition portfolios of internationally renowned museologists, artist-curators, art historians and political scientists – including Bridget Cooks, El Hadji Sy, Eddie Chambers and Françoise Vergès – creative approaches to challenging racism, ameliorating othering and decolonizing museum and gallery spaces will be foregrounded. Carol Ann Dixon will also conclude with her own strategies for contesting established grammars of racism, referencing selected case studies that address archival erasures and omissions, the restitution of stolen treasures to their communities of origin, workforce and boardroom diversification, collaborative curatorship and the polyvocality of exhibiting practices.


Dr Carol Ann Dixon is a UK-based researcher and education consultant, with research interests in African and Caribbean diaspora histories, cultural geography, museology and contemporary visual arts.  Her doctoral dissertation – “The ‘othering’ of Africa and its diasporas in Western museum practices" (University of Sheffield, 2016) – examined changing curatorial approaches to the display and interpretation of cultural objects from the African continent in contrasting Western museal settings. She has published a number of essays, journal articles, exhibition reviews and commentary pieces that address these issues, themes and cultural dynamics in periodicals such as Race & Class, Museums Journal, Geography (The Journal of the Geographical Society, UK), Transfers Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies and CAA.Reviews. In addition to her research and consultancy commitments, Dr Carol Ann Dixon also works as the Network Facilitator for CARISCC (Caribbean In/Securities and Creativity) – an international research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and managed via the University of Birmingham’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences in the United Kingdom. Email: C.A.Dixon(a)bham.ac.uk, 

Museum Geographies Blog.

The guest lecture is organized by the Rethinking diasporas, redefining nations. Representations of African diaspora formations in museums and exhibitions Academy Research Fellow project (2015-2020). 

For more information, please contact anna.rastas(a)uta.fi . 


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