Quantitative measures of relative representations of gender and minoritised persons provide stark evidence of the continuing inequalities in museums. Understanding and opposing such inequalities requires an account of museums that recognises their role in inscribing hierarchies associated with the modern nation state and its concept of citizenship. Benedict Anderson’s identification of the museum as one of the technologies of nation building in Imagined Communities (1983) is combined with M. Jacqui Alexander’s account of gender, sexuality, race, and the modern state in Pedagogies of Crossing (2005) to generate an understanding of the museum as a structure for establishing gender, sexual, and racial norms associated with modernity. This function is expressed in the museum’s work of collecting, classifying, and exhibiting or spectacularising objects. The potential for disrupting these structures is explored in two recent examples of museum practice in the UK: artist Sonia Boyce’s Manchester Art Gallery Takeover in 2018 and the Museum of Transology, 2017-present. The roles of museum staff and visitors are considered also in relation to the classifying and ordering activities of the museum and the possibility that disordering such structures will enable the museum to become a producer of more equal social relations.
Bibliographical noteThis is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Museum International on 20/8/2020, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/13500775.2020.1806595