Home / Events / #ReconstructionWork: Can the museum be decolonised?
7th July 2021
#ReconstructionWork: Can the museum be decolonised?
Date and Time
7th July 2021
Speakers and Artists
Our #ReconstructionWork online conversation series continues this year with another special event in partnership with the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) with support from Arts Council England.
On Wednesday 7th July, the Stuart Hall Foundation is hosting an online roundtable to think through the possibilities of decolonising the museum. The event will include short presentations from the panel of guest speakers followed by a chaired discussion:
• Mohammed Ali, Artist/Curator, Founder of Soul City Arts and Trustee of Birmingham Museums
• Sado Jirde, Director, Black South West Network
• Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, Writer and Poet
• Ahdaf Soueif, Writer
• Intro: Bridget Byrne, Director, the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE)
• Chair: Orsod Malik, Digital Content Curator, Stuart Hall Foundation
What can the concept of decolonisation look like in practice and in relation to the museum? We welcome Ahdaf Soueif, Mohammed Ali, Sado Jirde and Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan to share their experiences working within and without the museum to examine whether or not the museum can be a space for realising disruptive and radical possibilities. They will be discussing what and who the museum is for, the relationship between the museum and the construction of racial hierarchies as well as the museum’s entanglements with the history and legacies of colonisation.
This event will take place online and closed captions will be provided.
The Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) is an ESRC funded research centre providing theoretically informed, empirically grounded and policy-relevant research on ethnic inequalities in the UK. They bring together expertise from a range of disciplines including sociology, demography, economics, history, geography, political science, cultural studies and seek to communicate their research to a wide range of audiences.
CoDE has recently launched EVENS – Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS). This is the UK’s first and largest survey of its kind to document the impact of Covid-19, and the lockdowns, on 17,000 ethnic and religious minority people. Participate in EVENS.
Ahdaf Soueif is the author of the bestselling The Map of Love (shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999 and translated into more than 30 languages). Her account of the Egyptian revolution of 2011, Cairo: a City Transformed, came out in January 2014. Her collection of essays, Mezzaterra (2004), has been influential and her articles for the Guardian in the UK are published in the European and American press. In 2007 Ms Soueif co-founded the Palestine Festival of Literature which takes place annually in occupied Palestine. In 2020, after serving for 7 years, she resigned from the British Museum Board of Trustees.
Mohammed Ali is an award-winning artist, curator and producer, and a trustee of Birmingham Museums. He has been commissioned to work internationally with leading galleries, festivals, arts centres and theatres to produce large scale murals in open spaces in the communities where people work, live and play. Mohammed is the founder of Soul City Arts, a leading independent arts organisation based in Birmingham that has worked with artists, academics and activists from around the world to commission and present innovative exhibitions, performances and digital installations. He has worked extensively in places like Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, New York and South Africa.
Sado Jirde is the director of Black South West Network (BSWN), a charity focused on human rights, equality, access to knowledge and socio-economic inclusion within the framework of advocating on behalf of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities. She sits on various advisory groups and committees including the WECA Cultural strategy group, the Transatlantic Trafficking of Enslaved Afrikans Legacy Steering Group, Voice for Change England, the Baobab Foundation Steering group, and the Coalition for Race Equality organisation (CoRE) nationally. Amongst other accolades, she was most recently listed as a Women of Inspiration: 100 social enterprise leaders showing Covid who’s boss in 2020 and awarded West Woman of the Year – Most Inspirational Role Model in 2019.
Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is an educator and poet who disrupts narratives of race, history and knowledge in her writing and workshops. She is the author of ‘Postcolonial Banter’ (2019), host of the Breaking Binaries podcast, and published in multiple anthologies and national media publications. Her work has millions of views online.
Bridget Byrne is director of the ESRC Centre – CoDE (Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity and Inequality) and is currently directing a large project examining the impact of Covid19 on racialised and minoritised groups. Bridget’s numerous published works include the books ‘White lives: the interplay of ‘race’, class and gender in everyday life (Routledge), which was was joint winner of the BSA Philip Abrams Award 2006, ‘Making Citizens: public rituals and
Orsod Malik is the Stuart Hall Foundation’s Executive Director. He is a UK-based Sudani curator, writer, producer and digital strategist. Orsod’s curatorial approach focuses on identifying cultural and political entanglements in archival materials to explore possible shared histories. He is particularly interested in developing pedagogical tools and techniques to make transnational anticolonial struggles, histories, concepts and critiques accessible to a general public. Orsod is the Curator and Digital Strategist at the International Curators Forum (ICF). He has curated exhibitions at Black Cultural Archives and Institute of International Visual Arts (iniva). He was also the 2021 Archivist-in-Resident at the Library of Africa and the African Diaspora (LOATAD) based in Accra Ghana.
In Selected Writings on Race and Difference, editors Paul Gilroy and Ruth Wilson Gilmore gather more than twenty essays by Stuart Hall that highlight his extensive and groundbreaking engagement with race, representation, identity, difference, and diaspora. Spanning the whole of his career, this collection includes classic theoretical essays such as “The Whites of their Eyes” (1979) and “Race, the Floating Signifier” (1997). It also features public lectures, political articles, and popular pieces that circulated in periodicals and newspapers, which demonstrate the breadth and depth of Hall’s contribution to public discourses of race. Foregrounding how and why the analysis of race and difference should be concrete and not merely descriptive, this collection gives organizers and students of social theory ways to approach the interconnections of race with culture and consciousness, state and society, policing and freedom.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Paul Gilroy is one of the foremost theorists of race and racism working and teaching in the world today. Author of foundational and highly influential books such as There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack (1987), The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993), Against Race (2000), Postcolonial Melancholia (2005) and Darker Than Blue (2010) alongside numerous key articles, essays and critical interventions, Gilroy’s is a unique voice that speaks to the centrality and tenacity of racialized thought and representational practices in the modern world. He has transformed thinking across disciplines, from Ethnic Studies, British and American Literature, African American Studies, Black British Studies, Trans-Atlantic History and Critical Race Theory to Post-Colonial theory. He has contributed to and shaped thinking on Afro-Modernity, aesthetic practices, diasporic poetics and practices, sound and image worlds. He is Professor of the Humanities and Founding Director, Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism & Racialisation at University College London.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore is professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, and American Studies, and the director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean. Co-founder of many grassroots organizations including the California Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network, Gilmore is author of the prize-winning Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (UC Press). Recent publications include “Beyond Bratton” (Policing the Planet, Camp and Heatherton, eds., Verso); “Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence” (Futures of Black Radicalism, Lubin and Johnson, eds., Verso); a foreword to Bobby M. Wilson’s Birmingham classic America’s Johannesburg (U Georgia Press); and a foreword to Cedric J. Robinson on Racial Capitalism, Black Internationalism, and Cultures of Resistance (HLT Quan, ed., Pluto). Forthcoming projects include Change Everything: Racial Capitalism and the Case for Abolition (Haymarket); Abolition Geography (Verso); plus a collection of Stuart Hall’s writing on race and difference (co-edited with Paul Gilroy, Duke UP).
“The guerrilla studies! The guerrilla studies!” — exclaims Huey P Newton to an amorphous assembly of believers. The camera is zoomed a little too close to his face, abstracting him, abstracting expression. Huey is grieving, as one does when one is black and alive and a revolutionary. Grief is a revolutionary fervour, except when it isn’t.
I’m watching a documentary, piecing things together, studying I guess, that’s how you learn about the map, you listen to stories told by decipherers, you decipher, you study, you play.
A believer himself — you have to see it to believe it — Huey is stark, animated, severe, his body willing other bodies, to believe-see-become, to know for themselves the flailing common sense of deprival, to gather each other together, to gather in order to grieve-rename-articulate. To gather in order to trust.
Huey is grieving and/or I am grieving the dreams I did not or could not or would not author, but clung to nonetheless. Perhaps they are never dreams, instead, illusions. We are asleep for and/or to our dreams, awaking to persistent allusions of longevity and/or protection, illusions of a safety somehow unmade, uninsured insurance, ensured endurance.
Sleep! Where dreams come to live and die and be born, in the juice-dark renewal of rest. This is what happens in the dark, between dust and books and soil, left vulnerable to misinterpretation — is this, too, a tactic? — to the labour play of prayerful solutions, aghast, empty, disbelieving believers, containers of the lost colony, found over and again in jest, unjust, extrapolated and fed to children, to pigs rolled around and worn, as masks are and are not.
“The guerrilla studies!” — it’s been a riff slow roasting in the oven of my mind. I have painted it black and called it something holy, wrapped it up and swallowed it, hole. I have looked in the mirror and seen no answers, then I looked in other mirrors and saw some thing, discovered someone else that already discovered this; that other someone long ago and soon, who left some thing for the undead guerrillas.
In the annals of our freedom finding, we find our way, our treason trail. Feverishly, mouthful by unwholesome mouthful, we gather recipes, a cataclysm and another, again, we are reminded of the violence of this process, again, this blood-filled wreckage, its choppiness. We acquaint ourselves with the ingredients of our undoing, yes, we must be undone by our finding, our study — study will undo you — the this/them/that will graduate and be gone from our makeshift nests.
Won’t it? Will it? I? We? Us? All? Our pieces? What? Will be? Will be? — “The guerrilla studies!” — the warfare, the welfare, of the people — yours — people, which is to say community, except that it isn’t that simple, you can’t go around saying things like that, you won’t be believed, you won’t be able to believe it, and there must be something drifting beyond the sanctity of black and alive and revolutionary, something else in motion, tangible, in front of you. An imagined community, un-starved of touch, contactless, held because of it, within it, despite it — in order to spite it, this notion of a nation. We feel for each other in the night light.
To be sure, we must untether from this ghostly wifi, the unseverable connection of illusory cords, turns out your mother is a liar, if she ever was a mother, with all that interference. Abolition is — well, you will have to study it to be sure, — entailing admonition, admittance — in the future we will call abolition history, we will call it presence.
The guerrilla knows that the history of abolition is all around them, adding salt to taste, dividing portions, plating up, washing cutlery with an alkaline preparation. We grieving abolitionist guerrillas, having fessed up to our guilt, our deviant flagellant shame, having consented to each others flesh and mortified it, having been wrong wrong and wrong-er, without the rest of our maps — at a certain point your study will become you — we will eradicate this oppressive vocabulary of pretence, this warlike ledger, water-logged, waterlooed, blue as in hue, as in 14 and 92, hear we, re-membering our recipes, studying how to feed ourselves…
Imani Robinson is an artist and interdisciplinary writer whose practice combines performance, oration, poetry and critical theory, exploring themes of black geographies, the afterlives of transatlantic slavery, abolition and radical resistance. They are one half of Languid Hands, an artistic and curatorial collaboration with Rabz Lansiquot.