Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society
CALL FOR PAPERS: Special issue ‘Trauma and repair in the museum’
A long-contested cultural space, the museum is beginning to be recognised as a battleground not only of competing understandings of its remit and value, but also, more literally, as material documentation of real violence. Artefacts obtained through imperialist invasion and looting are interpellated through the museum into material evidence of the supremacy and worthiness of the colonisers, thus perpetuating the legacies of empire and consolidating them into current global inequalities. Museums help convert real violence into symbolic tensions and divisions within the communities they purport to serve.
The modern museum’s ‘hidden’ origin in violence, both in its histories of looting and in its use of objects to tell and/or preserve stories about nationhood, also relates to current debates in the contemporary art museum. This special issue of Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, focuses on the unconscious roots and ramifications of museological origins, histories and practices, addressed through any school of psychoanalytic thought, from both clinical and academic perspectives. Whose stories are visible in these spaces and how do they serve their audiences? Art museums naturalise the socio-cultural biases of the canon by inculcating standards of taste, aesthetics, and value in their audiences, and mapping implicit hierarchies within their displays or, more poignantly, between what is on display and what remains in storage. The critical discourse of contestation, which exposes and unpacks the mutual implication of collections, institutions, and displays with patriarchy, colonialism and racial capitalism, has gradually morphed into lively negotiation in which curators, artists, and stakeholders explore and campaign for new ways of understanding the histories and publics assembled herein.
As part of this new understanding, the therapeutic potential of engaging with museum collections and exhibitions is also being explored from psychodynamic, object-relations, and other perspectives (e.g. Froggett and Trustram, 2014). The emphasis here is often on reparation, which raises questions about the interrelationship between the political and the therapeutic, especially in relation to communities of trauma (Brown, 2004) for whom reparation can be a further act of violence. Can the museum house the narratives of pain and displacement held by objects in ways that acknowledge the rupture of trauma, but also present more entangled symbolic relations between cultures and publics? Artist Kader Attia’s concept of repair in his vast installation The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures (2012) is a practical model of how exchange between and across cultures might be rethought in terms of the psychosocial dynamics of identification and desire.
Contemporary curatorial thinking and practice confronts some of the most complex questions of museology and heritage studies in which practical considerations of conservation interweave with philosophical and political reflections on transience, memory, and commemoration. How might psychoanalytic thinking enable both a regenerative approach to such questions and a critical lens through which to examine the inherent ‘goodness’ thought to reside in object relations? Last but not least, psychoanalysis offers a toolkit through which to examine the strength of feeling, i.e. the passionate attachments, that curatorial decisions, acquisitions, de-acquisitions, and reclassifications inspire in their publics, particularly in the case of national and civic collections. This special issue aims to combine academic article-length contributions (6,000-8,000 words) with shorter interventions (1,500-3,000) by academic writers, artists, activists, and curators on current and pressing case studies or issues, including but not limited to:
• The museum as site of trauma
• The museum as site of repair and/or reparations
• The therapeutic potential of museums
• Affect in the museum, e.g. museological cathexis and decathexis
• Object relations in the museum
• Reparative aesthetics; reparative pedagogy
• Scandals in the museum (such as: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/mar/19/hylas-nymphs-manche...)
• Protest in the museum (e.g. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/arts/design/emmett-till-whitney-bienn...)
• Matters of life and death, including the ethics of ownership of human and animal remains
• Matters of ‘life’ and ‘death’, including philosophical and/or curatorial approaches to conservation
• Reactivating the archive as psychosocial praxis
Situated at the intersection between psychoanalysis and the social world, submissions are expected to fulfil the mission statement of the journal in mobilising the psychoanalytic toolkit to bring about positive social change, through analysis and/or proposals of models for future practice (https://www.palgrave.com/gp/journal/41282/authors/aims-scope).
Please submit an ABSTRACT of 300-500 words and a BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE of up to 100 words to the special issue editors by 9 December 2019. Authors will be notified of the outcome of their proposal in January 2020. First full drafts will be due in June 2020.
Kader Attia (2018). ‘Open Your Eyes: “La Réparation” in Africa and in the Occident’, Third Text, 32:1, pp. 16–31.
Susan Best (2016). Reparative Aesthetics: Witnessing in Contemporary Art Photography, London and New York: Bloomsbury.
Timothy P. Brown (2004). ‘Trauma Museums and the Future of Pedagogy’, Third Text, 18:4, pp. 247-259.
Tina M. Campt (2017). Listening to Images, Durham: Duke University Press.
Ron Eyerman (2001). Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lynn Froggett & Myna Trustram (2014). ‘Object relations in the museum: a psychosocial perspective, Museum Management and Curatorship, 29:5, 482-497, DOI: 10.1080/09647775.2014.957481
Griselda Pollock (2013). After-Affects/After-Images: Trauma and Aesthetic Transformation in the Virtual Feminist Museum, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD) & Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) (2019) Consultations: Sessions 1-3, https://www.viad.co.za/jag-consultations