Negotiating the Other: Marginalized racial groups and narratives of Canada

Susan L. T. Ashley
York University, Toronto, Canada

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Ingår i: National museums in a global world. NaMu III; Department of culture studies and oriental languages; University of Oslo; Norway; 19-21 November 2007

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 31:5, s. 63-68

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Publicerad: 2008-07-16


ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


Museums are important public sites for the mediation and authentication of heritage knowledge. But as authoritative sites; what is presented and what is not can have a major impact on how a society sees itself. In Canada; the state and the museum community have formally acknowledged the changing demographics of its citizens and the contested nature of national identity. But while museums have taken some measures to build bridges with marginalized racial communities; embedded bias is revealed upon closer analysis of exhibition practice. This paper asks: where do these groups fit within the institutional construction of national heritage and identity? How is communal heritage knowledge produced and represented; and how do people make sense of and internalize that knowledge? How does the communicative process inherent in museum exhibition-making affect the construction of heritage of such groups? And; how might institutional processes be altered to enable museums as more democratic public spaces of knowledge construction that make possible new articulations of heritage; identities and citizenship? My paper examines the evolution of a particular case study; an exhibition developed by the department of Canadian Heritage about the Underground Railroad developed by an active committee of African Canadians. The paper explores how this exhibition process both built bridges with non-typical knowledge producers; and made public aspects of history once not considered a central to Canadian community identity. The story of the conception; development; installation and use of this exhibit casts light on how heritage meanings are negotiated; produced; consumed and reconstructed through an interplay of dominant and marginalized groups. Key to this paper is a discussion of negotiation and expression ofcollectivity as essential to the identity formation; citizenship and democratic practice.


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