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Museums, materiality and global politics

By January 5, 2012 No Comments

There has been quite of a trend of thinking museums in terms of globalisation. For example, critical museum people are discussing the place of their institutions on the global scene (for a very good take on this, see here), and curators have begun to discuss their work in terms of the transnational nature of collections and acquisitioning (see, for example, here).

One of the interesting things that could come out of this merger of museum/collection studies and globalisation is a rethinking of the role of materiality and materialism for understanding the contemporary world. Thinking the world in materialist terms, which was very prominent in marxist thinking between the 1930s and 1970s which largely buried with the demise of historical materialism in favour of discourse founded in social constructivism — which is still dominant, also in museology.

And that’s why I find the conference on ‘Materialism and World Politics’, to be held at the LSE on 21-22 October, 2012, so interesting. The point of departure is current debates about “rational actors, agency in a physical world, the role of affect in decision-making, the biopolitical shaping of bodies, the perils and promises of material technology, the resurgence of historical materialism, and the looming environmental catastrophe” which has emerged during the last decade in contrast to “the dominant discourses of neorealism, neoliberalism and constructivism”.

As the organisers point out, the common materialist basis to these discussions has largely gone unacknowledged, and therefore they want to push the critical edge further by focusing on material factors for world politics.  — with panels about affect, biopolitics, discourse and materiality, philosophical materialism, historical materialism, scientific realism, etc.

300 word abstracts for paper proposals should be sent to millennium@lse.ac.uk by 16 April, 2012. A selection of the conference papers will be published in Millennium: Journal of International Studies, volume 41, no. 3.

More here.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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