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Settler Colonialism, Slavery, and the Problem of Decolonizing Museums

Day 3

Friday, October 22, 2021 |
12:00PM - 6:30PM ET

Decolonizing Museums graphic.


Live Online and Onsite at the Penn Museum


Over the past several decades, scholars and practitioners have critically reconsidered the role of ethnographic museums in the development and representation of knowledge about people and processes throughout the world. What are the relationships between colonialism and collection? What issues of accountability surround contemporary knowledge production and representation? How do we think through the challenges of repatriation? And what might repair look like? These questions have been asked not only within museum settings, but also across the discipline of anthropology for the past 30 years. Yet as museums attempt to reevaluate their practices of collecting, exhibiting, and repatriating, we must still confront—and determine a new relationship to—the legacies of Enlightenment-based scientific humanism and its imperial underpinnings.

Settler Colonialism, Slavery, and the Problem of Decolonizing Museums is a free, four-day hybrid international conference co-presented by the Center for Experimental Ethnography and the Penn Museum. Panelist presentations (15-20 minutes) will be pre-recorded and posted online, and we will convene for livestreamed moderated discussions and events specific to the Penn and Philadelphia museum communities.


Time Event Location Description
12:00-1:30 pm ET Panel II: Discussion and Q&A Online

Gwen Gordon (U-Penn), moderator, with Jane Anderson (New York University), Wayne Modest (Research Center for Material Culture, Museum Volkenkunde), Ann Kakaliouras (Whittier College), and Rachel Watkins (American University).

How has NAGPRA legislation impacted the development of legal processes for repatriation and other forms of reparation? In what ways might we think about moving beyond NAGPRA? In what ways must North American museum practitioners also grapple with questions of empire and slavery in thinking about meaningful processes of repair?

5:00-6:30 pm ET Virtual Workshop Details to be confirmed.

Free to Registered Guests


About the Conference

Organized by the Center for Experimental Ethnography, Settler Colonialism, Slavery, and the Problem of Decolonizing Museums builds on issues being raised within European and South African contexts, while also thinking through the particularities of the view from the United States. Drawing from the insights and experiences of scholars, museum practitioners, and educators, we seek to join conversations related to settler colonialism to those related to slavery and imperialism. We also seek to chart a terrain that emphasizes multi-vocality and multi-modality and that imagines the kinds of collaborations that might be possible between European, North American, South African, and other stakeholders. Finally, we want to elaborate new forms of relationship museums might have to their audiences.

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