World culture, world history, and the roles of a museum: a conceptual study of the Swedish museums of world culture, debates concerning them, and their roles in cultural politics
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionHarding, T. (2020). World culture, world history, and the roles of a museum: a conceptual study of the Swedish museums of world culture, debates concerning them, and their roles in cultural politics. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2020.1752684
The Museum of World Culture opened in 2004, partially in response to the increased immigration of the 1990s. This article analyses the political process leading to the establishment of the museum, and of the government agency that administers it and three other museums. It also analyses one of its permanent exhibitions, and the recent examples of public criticism of the museum, and of the government agency. Using conceptual history and analysis of historical periodization to analyze understandings of culture, history, and the role of museums, I argue that the museum represents a museum-idea focused on current issues, understanding history in terms of flows and encounters, in contrast to a museum-idea focusing on particular cultures and historical contexts and on understanding these as distinctly separate and context-dependent. Debate about the museum has become intertwined with the debate about the history, and nature, of the Swedish nation, making the museum both, a symbol of, and an actor in, the ongoing debate about Swedish national self-identity. The museum can thus be understood as a national museum, in the sense that it institutionalizes a version of national self-identity, and acts as a focus for debates about it.