Jerusalem, Museums, and Discourses on Settler Colonialism
Keyword: 
settler colonialism
Tower of David Museum
The Palestinian Museum
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Jewish Museum Berlin
Jerusalem
heritage narratives
visitor communities
curatorial practices
Abstract: 

This article compares four museum exhibits of Jerusalem from different geographical and political contexts: the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Jewish Museum Berlin. It examines the role of heritage narrative, focusing specifically on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how it is either openly engaged or, alternatively, avoided. The authors employ an analytical framework of settler colonialism and specifically highlight the asymmetric power dynamics resulting from Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, and how this political reality is addressed or ignored in the respective exhibits. The article also explores the agency of curators in shaping knowledge and perspective, and examines the role of the visitors community. The authors argue that the differences in approaches to exhibiting the city’s cultural heritage reveal how museums are central sites for the  politics of the human gaze, where significant decisions are made regarding inclusion and exclusion of conflict.

Author biography: 

Sa’ed Atshan is associate professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College. He is an anthropologist who specializes in Palestinian society and politics.

Katharina Galor is the Hirschfeld Senior Lecturer in Judaic Studies at Brown University. She specializes in the visual and material culture of Israel/Palestine.

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