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Jim Crow Representations: Memorialising Difficult Histories

4:00 pm - 5:00 pm | 06 January 2021
Online | Free

The Black Lives Matter movement in the 21st century has drawn urgent focus to the tangible monuments in our towns and cities which are part of the architecture of white supremacy; celebrating figures of the Confederacy, slave traders and imperialists in the United States, Europe and postcolonial countries.

As a number of these statues were pulled down or removed in the summer of 2020, pertinent questions have been asked about what we ‘do’ with material culture which upholds and celebrates racist ideologies.

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The Jim Crow Museum in Big Rapids, Michigan, presents a useful, if amplified, case study for the issues around the public history of difficult pasts; here the display and interpretation of a traumatic material inheritance of structural racism, violence and oppression against African American people.

Drawing on exhibition analysis, qualitative interviews and participant observation of museum tours, this talk considers the ways in which the dissonance inherent in museological representations of racism, still an emerging area, create tensions between past and present, between history, memory and ‘legacy’, and evoke painful pasts as performative avenues for present and future action.

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