Fake-News and Politically Engaged Museums-UofStir Postgraduate Conference

In May 2019, I participated in the postgraduate conference of the University of Stirling under the theme “Disruptions“. The conference was truly interdisciplinary with participants from all disciplines within the Arts and Humanities. The day was a typical Scottish (grey sky, no sun, rain) one, but not rainy enough to prevent me from doing a wee exploration of Stirling after the conference.

This was my second time speaking in a conference and a really pleasant experience. My paper addressed similar issues to my previous one in the Divisions conference but with a slightly different focus. The first part addressed fake-news as a part of humanity’s history (for my previous blog on the same topic click here) and the spread of false belief as a social problem. This problem was seen as the consequence of a wider shift, where political discourse is carried out less and less by “social units in dialogue”. Instead, isolated units are choosing their own truth empowered by social media, which can decrease exposure to different narratives.

Fake-news employed by far and alt right movements and politicians promote a divisive anti-migration, anti-climate change, and so on, agenda. In this context, fake-news are used as a tool facilitating the turn to an authoritarian and violent disciplinary form of biopolitics, as explored by Foucault during his lectures at Collège de France in 1975-6.

Museums can prove useful in the ‘post-truth’ world by providing the material space, where citizens can practice a form of public dialogue. Exploring ideas such as radical trust, participatory practice and the need to discuss difficult issues (serious play), my presentation sought different ways of accomplish this objective. Among the examples examined, where the exhibitions Face Forward into my Home and Shabtis: Suspended Truth at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens and Manchester Museum respectively. The pseudo-scientific Creationist Museum in Kentucky was briefly mentioned as a contemporary threat to the trust shown to the museum institution.

The last minutes of my presentation reflected on the possible drawbacks of bringing public discourse into the museum space and argued against the idea of an apolitical institution as an impossible endeavour. The conclusion held by my paper was that museums should not be partisan or affiliated with political parties, but also not afraid of engaging in the political discourse.

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