Coloniality and Education in Museums

Carmen Mörsch and Nora Landkammer

Keynote lecture of the performative discussion event UNEXPECTED LESSONS – Decolonizing Memory and Knowledge, June 11-12 2021 at Academy of the Arts, Berlin, in Nairobi and online. “What are all of these things?” a seven-year-old in an ethnographic museum asks the facilitator on her way through the exhibition. “Did you make them all yourselves?” What can the facilitator say in response except “no”?

Against the self-conception of museum educators, against their typically marginal positions within institutional hierarchies and the precarity of their working conditions, we will theorize museum education as a field of practice that is invested with power - the power and potential violence of bringing about performatively with visitors the museum, a narrative of its colonial history and present, and subject positions in relation to coloniality. In the first part Nora Landkammer will present a discourse analysis of the current working field of education in ethnographic museums in German speaking countries. The analysis reveals educational practice in ethnographic museums as a field of contending discursive positions, between conventions of visitor-centred museum education, the rise of participation, reflexive anthropology and postcolonial critique. Focusing on the contradictions and double bind situations critical educators find themselves in, one of the findings of the study is how a specific form of reflexivity established in museum work blocks rather than helps decolonizing perspectives. Carmen Mörsch argues in the second part, that a prerequisite for decolonization in the working field is critical diversity literacy, as a perspective, an epistemological standpoint and as a professional attitude that needs to be the basis for the academic education, training as well as ongoing professional development of museum workers, both curators and educators. She will introduce eight indicators of critical diversity literacy and will reflect on possible implications of these indicators for the working field.


UNEXPECTED LESSONS — »Colonialities and Education in Museums« – English
UNEXPECTED LESSONS — »Colonialities and Education in Museums« – German