How and why is Africa represented in European Museums? This panel will critique the cognitive infrastructures underlying the research, interpretation and display of African material in museums, and the intersections of these within present post-colonial legacies, including politics of race.
This panel will question how African pasts and presents are currently represented in European Museums. It will seek to expose and critique the cognitive infrastructures underlying the research, interpretation and display of African material in museums, and the intersections of these within present post-colonial legacies, including politics of race. Addressing the conference theme, the panel will ask how connections and disruptions in African presents and pasts are being represented, and explore new approaches that might disrupt established thinking and practices to make new connections for African collections. This panel situates itself within present debates over the future of African collections in European museums. Ground is shifting, with recent announcements made by President Macron, the Benin Dialogue Group and the V&A concerning repatriation and long-term loans. Questions of consistency surrounding the repatriation of colonial-era looted objects encircle Berlin's Humbolt Forum as it prepares to open in 2019. A demand for the recognition of acts of colonial violence in the past, and their legacies in the present, lie central to these debates. This includes questions about the structural inequalities that frame ideas of legitimacy and appropriate justice. While moral and logistical debates about repatriation continue to rage above the curatorial level, this panel seeks to recognise the underlying colonial legacies and inequalities that continue to frame work with African collections today. What are the assumptions underlying how collections are presented, and who for? What are the tensions that permeate ideas of legitimate expertise? Can anything be done to disrupt them?