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Accepted Paper:

(Un)shared emotions: affective positionalities in the age of repatriation  
Charlotte Engman (Umeå University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses how emotions are shared and navigated by museum professionals in repatriation discourse. It aims, in particular, to demonstrate how affect can be studied in the borderland between professional and public/private at a time when political pressure on repatriation is increasing.

Paper long abstract:

Cultural heritage is a politically and emotionally charged topic of present public debate. As political pressure on museums to repatriate heritage items rise over the world, museum professionals are facing increased difficulties in navigating the emotions at stake between their own professional communities and the diasporic, politically active, stakeholders they seek to collaborate with.

Building on observation data and in-depth interviews with museum professionals and external stakeholders engaged in the project Ongoing Africa at the Swedish Museum of Ethnography, this paper addresses the uncertain affective positionalities of museum professionals in repatriation discourse. Viewing affect as culturally negotiated and meaningful, the paper suggests that affect can be studied in the borderland between different “affective communities” (Ahmed 2008). The "flat emotions" of museum professionalism (Smith 2021) have become increasingly difficult to navigate and express, highlighting the distinctions between public and professional grieving over historical atrocities. Exploring the tensions generated between affective communities, the paper further seeks to define how affect can or cannot be shared between professionals and the public.

Panel Body03
Mediating affect in the world of uncertainties
  Session 1 Thursday 8 June, 2023, -