29 October 2020

The Hero/ine in the Ethnographic Museum

BROWN BAG SESSION | 29 October | 14:15 - 15:00 | Online, Microsoft Teams 

Luka Fleuren, an intern from Utrecht University, will briefly present the results of her research at the NMVW in which she interviewed colleagues about how the notion of the 'hero'/ 'heroine' engages with the work of our museum.

If you would like to take part in this brown bag session, please send an email to juliette.huijgen@wereldculturen.nl. 

In the Dutch context and beyond, the commemoration of heroes and heroines has become a deeply contested issue in the domain of heritage. Whilst discussions surrounding the topic have existed for quite some time, the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests have sparked a new sense of urgency to critically consider which hero(ine)s we commemorate and how we commemorate them. The commemoration of colonial figures has become particularly contested, as their historical hero status has become questionable in the present. What should we do with such contested heroes today? Whose heroes and heroines should we commemorate? Who deserves the label of ‘hero/ine?’ What does it really mean to label someone a ‘hero/ine?’ As an institution with a colonial legacy, the ethnographic museum must attempt to deal with such questions when exhibiting heroes and heroines in the postcolonial present. With this project, I aim to offer possible ways in which the ethnographic museum may navigate these questions. To reach this objective, I will first build upon existing academic literature to explore the meanings of the notion of ‘hero/ine’ as well as the question of why we have heroes and heroines, particularly focusing on the domain of heritage. Second, based on the interviews I conducted with NMVW research and curatorial staff, I will examine how museum professionals interpret the figure of the hero/ine and how they would navigate the selection and representation of heroes and heroines in a possible future exhibition on ‘the hero/ine’ in the context of the NMVW. Ultimately, I hope to contribute a deeper understanding of the complexities around the figure of the hero/ine and what it may mean to commemorate heroes and heroines when working with a colonial collection in the postcolonial present.


Luka Fleuren is a Dutch student who is currently in her second year of Utrecht University’s Gender Studies Research MA. As a researcher, she is mainly interested in postcolonial and decolonial theory and primarily focuses on the domains of heritage and education. In 2019, Luka completed her studies at University College Maastricht and earned a Bachelor of Arts. As part of her bachelor’s degree, she also spent one semester at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Currently, Luka is an intern at the Research Center for Material Culture and is in the process of completing her research project on ‘the hero/ine in the ethnographic museum.’