CFP: Certain Museums of Uncertain Pasts


Workshop (110): Certain Museums of Uncertain Pasts
Hosted by the European Association of Social Anthropologists Conference 2012
Nanterre University, France, 10/07/2012 – 13/07/2012

Deadline: 28 November 2011

Gabriela Nicolescu (Goldsmiths College, University of London)
Raluca Musat (UCL)
Alana Jelinek (Museum of Archeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge)

Short Abstract
This workshop aims to open up the debate regarding the way museums and
their collections relate to the controversies and uncertainties of their
past and of that of the societies to which they belong. How can sheer
disquiet of the past ever be displayed?

Long Abstract
Museums always seem to provide their visitors with definite and confident
narratives about the past, thus making strong claims towards ordering the
present and the future. However, the past life of objects, collections and
of museums themselves is full of uncertainties, contradictions and unrest.
Although much debated by scholars, these issues rarely make their way into
exhibitions and displays.

On the other hand, war, revolution or social unrest impact directly on the
life of museums. Their buildings are destroyed, looted or occupied
temporarily, their collections affected. Such events usually provide
opportunities for new representations of the past. Examples range from
classical ethnographic exhibitions to the memorial museums of
anti-communism in Eastern Europe, or the newly opened impressive spectacle
buildings of museums in the field of art.

This panel invites papers that engage with the way such institutions
reflect or come to terms with the traumatic events and contested moments
in their past and that of the societies they claim to represent. How do
they effectively deal with the inherent uncertainty and continuous social
unrest? Can uncertainty be socially accepted and exhibited? Papers are
welcome across the whole range of museums from anthropological or
historical institutions to military or scientific ones. We also encourage
discussions on other forms of visual representations (e.g. performances,
photography exhibitions, installations, and events). Presenters could also
focus on the life of particular objects or collections that leave or enter
museums in times of historical rupture or engage with the social practices
affecting their collections.

How to apply
Proposals should consist of a paper title, a (very) short abstract of <300
characters, and an abstract of 250 words. Proposals can only be submitted

Submit your proposals directly on:
or from the workshop page, by following the Propose a paper link

To propose a paper, you do not need to be a member of EASA. However, if
your paper is accepted, you will need to become a member. Please do not
apply for membership until your paper has been accepted. You can apply
afterwards, via the


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