This thesis examines how curatorial approaches to the display and interpretation of artworks and cultural objects from the African continent, as well as works by diasporan artists of African descent, have changed over time in Western museums and galleries – focusing on histories and geographies of acquisition, collection development, exhibition assemblage, narrative interpretation and other curatorial practices. With particular reference to the culture sectors in Britain and France it investigates how and why exhibits with African provenance have been ‘othered’ in both ethnographic and fine art contexts, drawing on fieldwork undertaken at four case study institutions: the British Museum, Tate, the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Through the application of qualitative research methods – including walk-through reviews of permanent holdings on display, archive-based surveys of past exhibitions, visual analysis of selected exhibits, and semi-structured interviews with curators and other creative professionals – questions are addressed in relation to the nature and extent of othering, the impacts of Self/Other binarism, and amelioration strategies to improve museum and gallery experiences for more diverse audiences. As prior scholarship in this field has tended to concentrate on colonial-era constructions of selfhood and otherness, primarily articulated and exhibited via ethnographic collections, this discursive investigation also examines postcolonial manifestations and legacies of othering observed in 21st century, post-modern displays of fine art. The theoretical perspectives of selected black feminist scholars provide the framework for adopting a non-adjunctive position of resistance from which to read ‘against (as well as along) the grain’ of established Western canons of knowledge and prevailing curatorial orthodoxy. By tracing the historical palimpsests and contemporary networks that connect artists, curators, objects and audiences over time and space, the inherent tensions, instabilities paradoxes and limitations of Self/Other binarism are exposed – opening up opportunities to consider alternative, more conceptually nuanced, inclusive and internationally dialogical museum practices in the West informed by the dynamics of transnationalism, diaspora formation and globalisation.
|Publication status||Published - 5 May 2017|