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22 May 2021
20 August 2021
“We cannot atone for disaster-generating regimes without substantial transformation and repair of the world.”
Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism
Questions of repair cross the boundaries of the social and the material, the natural and the cultural. Understood as a process of mending what has been broken or damaged, repair encompasses a multitude of embodied gestures and physical interventions, from stitching and pasting to long-term maintenance and wholesale reconstruction. The aesthetics of repair have been a central concern of the heritage movement since at least the nineteenth century, particularly in the fields of object conservation and architectural preservation. Such practices are of course never neutral, but rather emerge from and feed back into culturally specific systems of care and transmission. Concerns over materiality, authenticity and legibility cannot be disentangled from the political and ethical dimensions of repair, which remains a disputed term across varied fields of research and practice.
As Ariella Azoulay reminds us, however, discussions of repair should not be reduced to the material domain. The intersecting problems of climate breakdown, racial and social injustice, economic inequality and the erosion of democracy speak to an urgent need for polyphonic forms of repair and reparation to address a broken world. Framing repair in this way radically expands the political, affective and aesthetic dimensions of the concept. No longer a task purely for specialists, the necessity of repair across multiple scales and contexts demands collective, participatory action. For Azoulay, such a “condition of plurality” is essential if we are to undo the institutionalized violence of imperialism, so that “the bliss of being active and repairing what was broken can be attained.”
What would it mean for museums to become active agents in this project of worldly repair? While museums have often seen repair as a back-of-house activity associated with specific skills and expertise, this special volume of Museums & Social Issues asks what it would take for ‘repair’ to instead become a shared endeavour of critical and creative reimagining for individual institutions and the sector as a whole. Crucially, this approach aims to acknowledge that many museums are bound up with the “disaster-generating regimes” that have given rise to the need for worldly repair in the first place, but also that this complicity need not set the parameters for meaningful processes of reparation now or in the future. Reframing repair in this way raises vital questions about the asymmetries of repair as a discourse and practice, the different scales and temporalities of repair that might exist within and beyond the museum space, and the ethical and political dimensions of repair as a social rather than simply material obligation. The ‘objects’ and ‘subjects’ of repair from this perspective may stretch from individual artefacts and community relationships to the climate of the Earth itself, which in many ways has come to epitomise the ‘broken’ condition of our shared world.
Looking to Publish your Research?
We aim to make publishing with Taylor & Francis a rewarding experience for all our authors. Please visit our Author Services website for more information and guidance, and do contact us if there is anything we can help with!
We invite papers that engage with the central theme of ‘repair’ from a range of theoretical, historical, methodological and cultural perspectives.
- We welcome research articles of 6-7,000 words as well as shorter provocations of 3-4,000 words.
- Please send an abstract of 300 words outlining your proposed contribution by 21st May 2021.
- The editors will then invite a selection of authors to develop their articles for publication in the 2021 issue of Museums & Social Issues. The final deadline for manuscripts will be 20th August 2021.
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