CFP: Conference on Museums and Refugees

Museum in Docklands, London, 13-14 March 2008

Deadline for call of papers:  17 October 2007

How do museums and more broadly the heritage sector engage with refugees and asylum seekers and the increased global focus on forced migration?  The collective and individual voices of the people are rarely heard and often misrepresented in the media.  Museums, academic research centres, non-government organisations and government departments/agencies now see the need to explore the cultural contributions to and impact of refugee and asylum seeker groups on urban and regional centres.

The conference aims to explore how museums and other heritage agencies are responding to complex ethical, legal, social and political issues.  How can museums inform debate and, given recent trends in immigration and asylum polices, highlight international and national obligations to protect people from persecution? 

These issues impact on the work practices of museums in terms of curatorial decisions, collecting strategies, partnerships, approaches to programming, as well as shared decision making in collaborative exhibitions and public events.  Are museums agents and forums of cultural change or do they reflect social change?  Is there a new role for museums in terms of cultural facilitation and mediation?  Should museums be more proactive as places for cross-cultural exchange and developing understanding between ‘new’ communities and peoples of diverse backgrounds?  Are there appropriate ethical codes of practice in place to facilitate these new agendas?

We invite a range of papers that might be prompted by these questions as well as the three strands of the conference:

1.  Giving voice: the museological agenda

– what are the current museological strategies to record, engage and reflect diverse tangible and intangible heritage? 

– what resources and expertise can museums offer to and exchange with individuals and community groups and in turn serve as a counterpoint to the dominant discourses? 

– to what extent do current practices inform museological policies, practices and long term agendas for working with refugee and asylum seeker groups?

2.  Culture as a key player: evidencing social impact  

– how can social capital be an effective means of to measure museums’ effectiveness, develop responsive practices and inform policies and funding opportunities?

– can museums be effective forums for bridging and encouraging cross-cultural discussions, debate, understanding and active participation – and, if so, how can this be realising measured in terms of evidence that will convince policy makers? 

– where does the work of museums sit with political and social policies on measuring social impact, eg in terms of regeneration, social cohesion?

– can we ensure that notions of citizenship and values are not used to promote the cultural values of a more dominant group over another?

3. Innovation and research

– how can museums and heritage agencies be more creative and innovative in addressing these issues?

– how can museums develop more flexible spaces to present plural perspectives of groups and their histories and heritage (tangible and intangible)?

– how can museums work better with refugee and asylum seek groups, universities and other agencies as a knowledge base and communicate these issues to the public.

We would welcome abstracts of 1-2 pages on these issues and other issues pertinent to the aims of this conference – these might include partnership work, community cantered museum work, social inclusion, diasporas and translational social movements, gender and sexuality, deportation and detention, and combating racism.

Please send abstracts and/or proposals to dmcintyre@museumoflondon.org.uk or korchard@museumoflondon.org.uk by 17 October 2007.  Responses to abstracts will be by 1 December 2007.

A selection of papers will be published in the Museums and Diversity series, which is published by UNESCO.

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