Studies in Philosophy and Education 37 (2):147-165 (2018)

In recent years there has been an increasing interest in museum studies in exhibitions on what is termed Difficult Matters —such as rape and mass murder—and how such exhibitions may evoke ethical change. This raises the question about the conditions on which such exhibitions can lead to an ethical change. By developing a conceptual framework this article contributes to museum studies on Difficult Matters demonstrating how vulnerability can work as a key concept in a relational pedagogical understanding of the conditions for ethical change. Inspired by feminist ethics the article suggests that there is an “ambivalent potentiality” of the concept of vulnerability and forwards a double perspective on vulnerability as condition: vulnerability is inherent to the human condition and always situational. From this point of departure vulnerability is fleshed out as a key concept in museum pedagogy via pedagogical thinkers inspired by the philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas’ ethics. Concepts like heteronomy, incarnation, Face and Saying/Said are introduced to define vulnerability and the relation between exhibition and visitor is defined as a teaching–learning relation conditioned by vulnerability. Vulnerability is defined as openness to an encounter with the Other as being different, which is conditional of an ethical transformation of existing perceptions of self, others and the world. Finally, inspired by feminist philosophy a norm critical is introduced. It is argued that displaying Difficult Matters in order to evoke an ethical transformation museum professionals need consider critically the norms of vulnerability at play in particular situations. On this basis, the concept of vulnerability can serve as a lever for discussions on the pedagogy of exhibitions on Difficult Matters and the ethical responsibility of museum professionals in public museums in this regard.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11217-017-9579-y
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 55,955
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Receiving the Gift of Teaching: From 'Learning From' to 'Being Taught By'.Gert Biesta - 2013 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 32 (5):449-461.
Education Incarnate.Sharon Todd - 2016 - Educational Philosophy and Theory 48 (4).
The “Crisis of Pity” and the Radicalization of Solidarity: Toward Critical Pedagogies of Compassion.Michalinos Zembylas - 2013 - Educational Studies: A Jrnl of the American Educ. Studies Assoc 49 (6):504-521.
Learning in the Museum.George E. Hein - 1999 - British Journal of Educational Studies 47 (1):80-82.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Introduction.Wendy Rogers - 2012 - International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 5 (2):1-10.
‘Vulnerability’: Handle with Care.Kate Brown - 2011 - Ethics and Social Welfare 5 (3):313-321.
Vulnerability as a Regulatory Category in Human Subject Research.Carl H. Coleman - 2009 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 37 (1):12-18.
Vulnerability and Resilience: A Critical Nexus.Mianna Lotz - 2016 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 37 (1):45-59.


Added to PP index

Total views
26 ( #397,049 of 2,403,169 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #156,541 of 2,403,169 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes