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Abstract

This is a co-editors’ introduction to the Fall 2011 issue of Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, entitled “Contesting Memory: Museumizations of Migration in Comparative Global Context,” including papers that were presented at a conference on “Museums and Migration” held on June 25-26, 2010, at the Maison des Science de l’Homme (MSH) in Paris. The co-editors were able to organize this event thanks to the support of MSH Director and President of the International Sociological Association, Michel Wieviorka. The focus of the present collection is on questions of representation and social agency of both migrants and museum officials. The purpose is to explore in a comparative perspective the complex and conflictive articulation between how migrants are represented by themselves and by museum institutions. The topic of migrants as social actors is one of the key issues explored in this collection. Migrants are not passive toward their lives and representations. They are social agents actively involved in their communities and socially vigilant of the way they are treated, perceived and represented by the host society. They produce also their own narratives and representations that are many times in conflict with Western hegemonic perceptions of their cultures and identities. Their strong presence in global cities and metropolitan societies today confronts the dominant society with issues of racial/ethnic discrimination and historical memory otherwise ignored by the hegemonic views in the mainstream of Western societies. Museums dealing with the history of slavery, the history of migration and the colonial history emerged as spaces of contestation. Moreover, the term “migrant” itself has been contested by “minority” groups that happen to have a long colonial history in the metropolitan society and are today formal metropolitan citizens born and raised in the metropoles but still perceived as “foreigners” and “immigrants."

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