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"Out of place ? Notes on public museums and ‘religious’ things"

Benoît de L’Estoile

Mercredi 5 mai 2021
Keynote lecture, workshop Patrimoine religieux dans les musées publics, Bruxelles, ULB

Many religious objects are now conserved and displayed in state-funded museums across the globe. In former Western empires the museums have been built through processes of colonial collecting often marked by violence. In the former socialist countries, museums manage the religious heritage acquired through forced nationalization. In both types of political contexts, the museums play nowadays an important role in questioning these controversial pasts, and are in the process of transforming their relationships with the confessional groups and the source communities.
The workshop brings together ethnographic case studies from various post-colonial and post-Socialist countries. Its participants explore the shifting practices in display and repatriation, the use of religious objects and symbols in museum narratives, as well as ritual relations to the museum objects. What do these practices bring to the understanding of the changing place of religion(s) in secular states ? What do they tell us about the relationship between former metropolises and colonized populations ? The workshop approaches the museums as hybrid places of secular-religious entanglements, and aims at developing the dialogue between the anthropology of museums and the anthropology of religion.