Dissertation, Lund University (2017)

The aim of this dissertation is to critically investigate and problematize how museum exhibitions on Difficult Matters, like war and sexual violence, can be designed in order to contribute to teaching-learning relations between museum and visitor, which may transform existing perceptions of self, others, and the world and evoke a deepened sense of responsibility in the viewers, i.e. an ethical transformation.Based on a hermeneutic phenomenological approach the study takes three paths to shed light on the above. 1) Investigating literature on museum studies on New Museology and Difficult Matters on the basis of which the research maps out current problems of understanding the pedagogical and ethical potentials. 2) From conducting case studies of two specific exhibitions to make an in-depth examination of designing exhibitions on Difficult Matters and how these are related to contextual conditions. 3) Investigating pedagogical theoretical literature inspired by the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and literature in feminist philosophy on ethics of vulnerability all closely linked to the case studies, the study develops a conceptual basis for understanding the practice of designing exhibitions on Difficult Matters. A main finding is that designing exhibitions on Difficult Matters is related to the condition of vulnerability and this demands a pedagogical perspective sensitive to the ethical implications of exhibition making. This is because evoking ethical transformation is conditioned by a teaching-learning relation, which inspires openness on the part of the visitor to an encounter with the other and her/his life-story as being different from existing perceptions - an openness which is defined by vulnerability. As a result, vulnerability is at the heart of exhibitions on Difficult Matters.The overall conclusion to be drawn from the study is that vulnerability is a key concept in museum pedagogy and that vulnerability is an ambivalent potentiality which must be addressed from a double perspective on vulnerability as being inherent to the human condition and dependent on the particular situation. Consequently, vulnerability calls for pedagogical considerations and ethical attention from museum professionals, when designing exhibitions on Difficult Matters.
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The Visible and the Invisible.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1968 - Northwestern University Press.
Totality and Infinity.Emmanuel Levinas - 1961/1969 - Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.
Being and Time.Ronald W. Hepburn - 1964 - Philosophical Quarterly 14 (56):276.

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