16 October 2020

The Critical Visitor: The Solidarity Methods Lab

CLOSED FIELD LAB | 15-16 Oct 2020 | Museum Volkenkunde 

Building on the first lab's orientation to thinking ‘togetherness’ as a practice of interrogating the possibilities (and the hurdles) of intersectionality in art and heritage spaces, the focus of this second lab is on solidarity and a discussion of when we, as museums and heritages spaces, fall short: that is, how but also why to practice solidarity in theoretical, ethical, and practical terms.     

With Layal Ftouni, Hodan Warsame, Aynouk Tan and Teresa Cisneros

This field lab is on invitation only


Our meeting shall take place in a setting that follows the rules that correspond to current Covid-regulations, on Thursday afternoon 15 October from 14.00-17.00 and Friday morning 16 October from 9.30-13.00 in Leiden at Museum Volkenkunde. On the second day we start working in small groups to test and discuss methods of intersectionality in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement and especially the worldwide demonstrations that have and continue to take place since the tragic murder of George Floyd on 25 May this year. How did the Dutch museum and heritage field in The Netherlands respond? How did intersectional approaches, instruments or methods play a role (or not, or not enough)? What questions, issues and dilemmas came up (in relation to intersectionality, togetherness and solidarity), and how have you and your colleagues been dealing with them?  

Given the current care around Black Lives Matter, we hold on to the pragmatic hope that institutional practices do and can change, in the interest of a more inclusive society. If one takes feminist struggles as a starting point, we must acknowledge the gains of feminism in informing how we struggle to make progress notably for beings whose presence in the public sphere is still (un)welcomed with misunderstandings, and the violence associated with these misunderstandings. To acknowledge that things may have changed for the better is tactical, as such a gesture is crucial to knowing which battles we are fighting. More simply stated: to say that things have improved does not negate the battles we have to fight.  

In our struggle for togetherness, we invite you to bring with you concrete examples for discussion, such as mission statements, policy plans (collection or hiring, etc.), or an agenda set by your institution. The point here is to connect micro and interpersonal practices of solidarity and allyship to their scaling up in professional practices (the 6 P's: programming, partners, personnel, public, personal, collection/pronkstuk). After a plenary session on the discussions in groups, we will end our second field lab with some reflections that can feed our professional practice.     

Image: The title on this image says "Egypt. Arab women in their typical dress" Union Postale POST CARD Egypt - Publ. & Copyright the Oriental Commercial Bureau Port Said (Egypt) - Real Photo Highglazed' and ' Egypt. Femmes Arabes/Araberfrauen'. 7082-nf-353-38-1


In preparation of the field lab, we will share some readings with you.

The first reading is Sarah Ahmed’s On Being IncludedRacism and Diversity in Institutional Life (Duke University Press, 2012).

Some more readings to follow in the coming weeks.   

The Critical Visitor

The overarching aim of The Critical Visitor (an NWO Creative Industries: Smart Culture – Arts and Culture grant) is to investigate how intersectionality theories and methodologies might facilitate the cultural sector in rethinking and retooling their means to achieve inclusivity and accessibility.

This second two-day field lab program is curated by Amal Alhaag, in close conversation with Eliza Steinbock, Wayne Modest, Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken and Hester Dibbits. 

Keynote Layal Ftouni

Layal Ftouni is an Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at the Graduate Gender Programme, Department of Media and Cultural Studies, at Utrecht University and a research affiliate at the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (ICON) at the same university. She is the co-founder of the transnational network Arab Cultural Studies and is the editor (with Tarik Sabry) of Arab Subcultures: Transformations in Theory and Practice (I.B.Tauris, 2017).   Through her research and teaching, Layal trained transdisciplinarily, working across gender studies, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, visual studies and critical race studies. Her current research centres around the politics of life and death (human and environmental) in conditions of war and settler colonialism.

Before joining Utrecht University, Layal was a senior teaching fellow at SOAS, University of London and completed her PhD at the University of Westminster (2017) entitled Dismantling or Reproducing the Orientalist Canon: Re-visualising the Harem and the Odalisque in Contemporary Art. 

Layal Ftouni