Research Lab: Notes on an accountable museum

14 Jun 2021 - 10:45
Image of Speaker Alirio Karina. Screenshot courtesy of Ettore Morelli.


On Thursday 18 March, the APC formally welcomed its new cohort of students and hosted its inaugural event for 2021. The Research Lab, in the format of a lunchtime discussion with APC’s new postdoctoral fellow, Alírio Karina, kicked off the APC’s 2021 Post-Museum research theme. Karina presented an early draft of an essay titled “Notes on an accountable museum”. This paper offered a critical and theoretical analysis of the role of museums in contemporary and past imperial knowledge and power formations. The paper also considered the consequences of this role for questions of accountability and restitution that have gained new prominence over the past few years.

At the heart of Karina’s provocation is an assertion that the museum is an institutional form lacking in contemporary justification. As such, the project for those who seek to “decolonise” the museum must be to end the museum, and imagine new ways of relating to matters of memory and identity to replace it. A lively discussion followed, broaching questions of the critical work that is possible within museums, how museums offer a means to stake a claim to history and public life, what the hegemony and methods of the museum foreclose, as well as proposing a direction away from the museum in the form of living alongside heritage items in everyday public life.

The next event in the Post-Museum theme was the first of our monthly reading sessions led by Karina. It took place on Thursday the 29th April, from 12.30-2.30pm. The texts discussed were:

Hicks, Dan. "Necrography: Death-Writing in the Colonial Museum." British Art Studies 19 (2021);

Mbembe, Achille. "Necropolitics." Public Culture 15, no. 1 (2003): 11-40.