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Critical museology and community engagement


Admission requirements

BA degree in Archaeology or a relevant discipline.


Building on a tradition of ‘critical museology’, this course seeks to provoke students into questioning what a museum is and does, and what it can be.
The aim of this course is to familiarise students with the main current debates within critical museology, and particularly new forms museums have been developing to engage with communities.

Through a critical analysis of case studies and literature we start unpacking some of the key concepts central to the topic of ‘museums and communities’. We will explore topics such as the politics of representation and self-representation, issues of authority, control and inclusion/exclusion, the potential for social and historical criticism embedded in museum practices, claims to repatriation, new modes of exhibition-making, the critical perspective of audiences, communities and the nation-state, among others.

Classes will explore recent controversial cases in the museum world. By the end of the term, students are expected to have gained critical insight into the different aspects involved in museum practices and community engagement. Student should be able to apply these ideas and perspectives to contemporary cases.

Course objectives

  • Understanding and a working appreciation of both theoretical and practical approaches to key issues in the field of museum anthropology and museum studies;

  • Ability to demonstrate a familiarity with, and express informed opinions about, current museological debates;

  • Ability to critically assess literature and argue one’s position;

  • Ability to maintain a discussion on the basis of the assigned literature;

  • Improve skills in evaluating the pros and cons of community engagement projects.

For RMA-students, in addition to the above:

  • Ability to employ theoretically-informed perspectives to critically discuss established and innovative museological practices.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Tutorials.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 28 hours of lectures (2 ects);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Final project (1 ects).

Assessment method

MA-students: Final project: poster presentation.

RMA-students: Final project: poster presentation and organisation of a concluding seminar.

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

  • J. Clifford, “Museums as Contact Zones” (1997), in: Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, pp. 188-219;

  • I. Karp & S. Levine (eds), Exhibition Cultures. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press (1991);

  • R. Harrison (2013), “Introduction” in: Reassembling the Collection. Ethnographic Museums and Indigenous Agency. School for Advanced Research, Advanced Seminar Series. Santa Fe: SAR Press;

  • M. Clavir, Preserving What Is Valued: Museums, Conservation and First Nations.Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press (2002) [selections];

  • J. Kuo Wei Tchen & L. Sevcenko (2011), “The “Dialogic Museum” Revisited: A Collaborative Reflection”, in: Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in a User Generated World. Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, pp 80-97;

  • S. MacDonald (ed.), Blackwell Companion to Museum Studies. London: Blackwell (2006) [selections];

  • L. van Broekhoven, C. Buijs & P. Hovens, Sharing Knowledge and Cultural Heritage First Nations of the Americas. Leiden: Sidestone Press (2011) [selections];

  • K. Fouseki, “Community Voices, Curatorial Choices” (2010) in: Museum and Society, Nov 2010. 8(3) 180-192;

  • V. Golding, “Collaborative Museums. Curators, Communities, Collections” (2013) in: V. Golding & W. Modest (eds), Museums and Communities: Curators, Collections and Collaboration. London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp.13-31.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. M. de Campos Francozo (block 3) or dr. S. Wang.


The maximum amount of participants for this course is 30.