Museums & Memory WG | Movement, Migration and Refugees TFDC 1.18
Jul 05, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230705T1100 20230705T1230 Europe/London 3.8. Museums and Memory #2: Experiences and Memories of Refugees and Forced Migration in Museums and Exhibitions Today

According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, "the Russian invasion of Ukraine – causing the fastest and one of the largest forced displacement crises since World War II – and other emergencies, from Africa to Afghanistan and beyond" has pushed the number of those displaced by war, violence, persecution, and human rights abuses to more than 100 million people. At the end of 2021, the number of refugees alone had already topped 21 million. In recent years, history, memorial, culture, ideas, human rights, war and genocide, immigration, exile, as well as children museums, and others have increasingly dealt with matters of migration, refugees, and forced displacement. The fact of the growing presence of flight, refugees, and forced displacement in museums world-wide raises questions how institutions, programming, and exhibitions create memory communities and connect past, present, and future, whether they are oriented towards the past in forms of commemoration and keeping memories alive, or towards the future in forms of memory activism and shaping the attitudes and political agency of visitors and other political stakeholders.The proposed panel analyzes various top-down and bottom curatorial efforts how to depict collective and individual forms of memory about refugees and forced migration. It features the analysis of exhibitions on four continents to understand how refugee exhibitions can (or cannot) create memory communities for museum visitors. Whereas Stephan Jaeger analyzes through the lens of experientiality, entangled, and cosmopolitan/agonistic memory recent European museum exhibitions that both combine a transnational universalizing approach highlighting or ending in the twenty-first century with concrete historical cases from the immediate aftermath o ...

TFDC 1.18 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, "the Russian invasion of Ukraine – causing the fastest and one of the largest forced displacement crises since World War II – and other emergencies, from Africa to Afghanistan and beyond" has pushed the number of those displaced by war, violence, persecution, and human rights abuses to more than 100 million people. At the end of 2021, the number of refugees alone had already topped 21 million. In recent years, history, memorial, culture, ideas, human rights, war and genocide, immigration, exile, as well as children museums, and others have increasingly dealt with matters of migration, refugees, and forced displacement. The fact of the growing presence of flight, refugees, and forced displacement in museums world-wide raises questions how institutions, programming, and exhibitions create memory communities and connect past, present, and future, whether they are oriented towards the past in forms of commemoration and keeping memories alive, or towards the future in forms of memory activism and shaping the attitudes and political agency of visitors and other political stakeholders.

The proposed panel analyzes various top-down and bottom curatorial efforts how to depict collective and individual forms of memory about refugees and forced migration. It features the analysis of exhibitions on four continents to understand how refugee exhibitions can (or cannot) create memory communities for museum visitors. Whereas Stephan Jaeger analyzes through the lens of experientiality, entangled, and cosmopolitan/agonistic memory recent European museum exhibitions that both combine a transnational universalizing approach highlighting or ending in the twenty-first century with concrete historical cases from the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Evangeline Jarman examines how an Australian museum narrativizes the case study of one German-Jewish family through means of 'multidirectional memory.' Hamutal Sadan discusses the challenges when curating art of asylum seeker artists (Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel) and new ways to promote activism and present political issues and memories, without explicitly expressing the trauma experienced by many refugees. exhibition and then while they were working on a series of performances. Finally, Katarzyna Puzon discusses a bottom-up art exhibition in Germany (asylum seekers from Syria and Iraq) who have co-authored with an artist an exhibition depicting their home-making efforts and experiences of asylum-seeking.



Stephan Jaeger (University of Manitoba)

Between individual and universal memories? Refugees and flight in national museums in Germany and Denmark

This paper analyzes by example of two case studies – the German Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation in Berlin (2021) and the Refugee Museum of Denmark in Oksbøl (2022) – the question how contemporary national museums can represent and narrate the stories and memories of refugees and forced migrants. It examines how exhibitions create memory communities and connect past, present, and future, whether they are oriented towards the past in forms of commemoration and keeping memories alive, or towards the future in forms of memory activism and shaping the attitudes and political agency of visitors and other political stakeholders. How are individual stories and memories balanced with universal statements about being a refugee or migrant? Does the universality top individual historical cases and individual voices? Whereas both museums connect to the German experience of flight and expulsion and also both add a universal component, their narrative solutions how to use story telling, engage visitors experientially, and create visitor memories that go beyond abstract generalizations, are quite different. By using recently elaborated concepts of experientiality (Jaeger 2020), entangled memory, and agonistic memory (Cento Bull & Hansen 2016), the paper will analyze how these exhibitions – through different means – create memory communities among visitors, and what the choices of either a distant, objectified historiographical representation and or an engaged narrative creating empathy and solidarity with the refugee and migrant perspectives achieve. This helps answering the question whether and how national museums could potentially achieve a status that transforms and politicizes visitors – i.e. adding an element of futurity – so that visitors can question their own positionality and agency, or whether these exhibitions at best reinforce a cosmopolitan memory creating a generalized sympathy with refugees and forced migrants, allowing visitors to stay at a safe observer distance. Finally, I will demonstrate the limitations of national exhibitions to politically critique government and the status quo, in other words, their limitations as activist interventions, even if they achieve the temporality of connecting,


Evangeline Jarman (Deakin University)

Experimental forms of multidirectional memory: A German-Jewish family fleeing Nazi persecution

Currently on part display in the recently opened Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip, the Stanwix Collection tells the story of the Freudenbergs, a family of German Jewish refugees who fled Nazi persecution, following the death of the donor's father at the Esterwegen Labour Camp in 1936. The Collection acts a richly textured, deeply personal and inspiring embodiment of the Freudenbergs' story: their perilous journey, the events which provoked their escape, and their wartime lives subsequent to arrival in January 1939. This paper first assesses the Museum's curated display of the Freudenbergs' flight to safety, through the display of certain objects and their accompanying labels. It then considers the gaps this approach leaves, particularly in reference to the personal testimony of the collection donor, Shirley Stanwix (formerly Cläre Freudenberg), who arrived in Perth at the age of 6 with her family. In response to those gaps, the central focus of this paper experiments with the entanglement between Shirley's memory and her physical collection, addressing memory in its most mobile, situational and transnational forms. Borrowing from Rothberg's 'multidirectional memory', this approach re-composes the Freudenbergs' story from the point of arrival, but travels simultaneously backwards and forwards along Shirley's memory, exposed through interview conversations, dusty newspaper excerpts, sepia toned photographs and, most significantly, tangible object materials.


Hamutal Sadan (Tel Aviv University)

How to Address Living Memories and Continuous Trauma: Curating Artwork by Asylum Seekers in Israel

This paper will discuss how curatorial activism deals with continuous trauma in the case of art made by Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel in recent years. There are approximately 21,000 Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel, who mostly have fled the military service in slavery conditions. As people who suffered a dictatorship regime, human rights violations, and censorship in their country of origin, as much as atrocities in their refuge journey on the way to Israel (e.g., torture camps in the Sinai Desert), many Eritrean asylum seekers deal with traumatic memories. In Israel, one of the first states to sign the Refugee Convention, only less than 0.5% of the asylum-seeking population received refugee status. Most of the asylum requests are stalled and are not decided. Not only Israel does not review the asylum requests, it is also enforcing restrictions and draconian laws to make the lives of asylum seekers unbearable and to make them leave Israel "voluntarily", as the State cannot deport them.

The strategy of how to present an exhibition that refers to continuous trauma and living memories from the recent past raises important questions that do not necessarily rise when addressing distanced memories. From interviews I conducted with Eritrean asylum seeker artists, I found many wishes to avoid discussing traumatic memories in their artwork. Often they prefer to show positive and nostalgic themes of their homeland or utopian future. As people who suffered hard censorship by the authority in Eritrea and then suffered from the Israeli policies, many times they internalize the restriction about what they should or should not paint. While curatorial activism often addresses the traumatic past to make a change in the present and the future, when curating art of asylum seeker artists, the curator might self-censor herself too, to not trigger any traumatic memories. This paper will discuss several ways to promote activism and present political issues and memories, without explicitly expressing the trauma.


Katarzyna Puzon (Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich)

Bringing in Others: Collaboration and Exhibition-Making in a Time of Change

'How does bringing in others change us?' was a theme running through the daHEIM project, a collaboration between the art group KUNSTASYL and the Museum of European Cultures (MEK) in Berlin. This query, posed in the context of the 'refugee crisis' of 2015-2016, referred to new arrivals not just in Germany but also in the museum. It thus pointed both to the socio-demographic change in society and to the daHEIM project, which involved the group's extensive, long-term presence on the museum's premises, first over the course of mounting an exhibition and then while they were working on a series of performances. KUNSTASYL, the majority of whose members fled the conflict-battered countries of Syria and Iraq, started in 2015. Initiated and helmed by the artist Barbara Caveng, it was established with the residents of an asylum shelter in Berlin-Spandau. A key idea was to create an art shelter (Kunstasyl) for and by those who lost their old homes and were building new ones in Berlin. At the MEK, in their exhibition daHEIM: Einsichten in flüchtige Leben (officially translated into English as daHEIM: Glances into Fugitive Lives), the group members put on display their home-making efforts and experiences of asylum-seeking. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper will discuss how the daHEIM project unravelled and played out in a museum context against the backdrop of forced migration developments. I will examine it through the lens of what I call the 'bringing in others' model and explore what it entailed in a time of change induced by the 'refugee crisis'. As I will show, Anna Tsing's idea of 'friction' offers an especially useful concept through which I will look at these developments and their wider implications. 

Professor
,
University of Manitoba
PhD Researcher
,
Deakin University
PhD candidate
,
Tel Aviv University
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Associate Professor of Sociology
,
CUNY/Borough of Manhattan Community College
PhD/Curator for Outreach
,
Stiftung Berliner Mauer
 Seda Şen
Dr.
,
Baskent University
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