Netherlands, Utrecht (NL)

Stolen Memories: Museums, Slavery and (De)Coloniality

when 30 June 2015 - 16 July 2015
duration 3 weeks
credits 6 ECTS
fee EUR 1195

The 2015 edition of the Annual Decolonial Summer School will be devoted to exploring Stolen Memories of the colonized. After introducing the main framework of decolonial thought, it asks how institutions like museums and universities have functioned to consolidate Western modernity and European imperial expansion by looking down on other civilizations and cultures. The course will also explore how contemporary ethnographic museums deal with calls for decolonizing and re-orienting their goals, and how the building of non-Western civilizational museums is taking shape. These current developments are complementary in restoring dignity and plurality through the re-emergence of stolen memories.

Museums and Universities are two fundamental institutional formations of modernity/coloniality. They are at the same time holders of coloniality of knowledge and the makers of modern/colonial subjectivities. Ethnographic museums served to store the stolen memories of the colonized while Art History and Fine Arts Museums served to build on the memories and achievements of Europe and Western Civilization.

The Tropen Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg and the Ethnological Museum of Berlin are paramount institutions of stolen memories. While the British Museum and Le Louvre combine both, stolen and proper memories. Under what historical conditions have museums emerged as constitutive institutions of Western Civilization? Who built them? How, when and why did the distinction between ¨art¨ and ¨ethnographic¨ museums come to be? What are the purposes of the difference between ethnographic and fine art museums?

Today such distinction is being contested in two directions. On the one hand, by building museums, in the Western as well as non-Western world, devoted to retrieve stolen memories and to heal the wounds of the negated and denied ways of living and being in the world. The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool and the National Museum of American Indians in Washington DC are two inviting reflections and actions toward decolonizing knowledge and subjectivities. On the other hand, emerging economies in the Arab Gulf as well as Singapore are, through the institutional figure of the museum, restoring histories that Western modernity disregarded. The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha and the Museum of Asian Civilizations in Singapore, are two cases of dewesternization.

By exploring how museums and universities have functioned to consolidate Western modernity and European imperial expansion this course will keep on advancing decolonial awareness. It will provide a space to value the diversity of projects that are seeking to restore the plurality of the world.

Course leader

Dr. Rolando Vázquez, Prof. Walter Mignolo, Prof. Jean Casimir and Prof. María Lugones

Target group

This course is designed for for graduate students (PhD and MA) from all disciplinary backgrounds, interested in decoloniality. The course is also open to interested advanced undergraduate students.

Course aim

The course will make the students acquainted with the most current debates around the decolonial critical thought, in particular in relation to the construction of alternative futures. It also aims at articulating research groups and networks that would complete the summer course with concrete agendas for producing original and collaborative projects aimed at enriching and furthering the scope of the decolonial debate.

Credits info

Certificate of attendance

Fee info

EUR 1195: Course + course materials + housing
EUR 745: Course + course materials


Utrecht Summer School doesn't offer scholarships for this course.

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