What does decolonial curatorial practice look like in a Global and Southeast Asian context?

Key information

12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Virtual Event
Event type

About this event

Stephen A. Murphy (Pratapaditya Pal Senior Lecturer in Curating and Museology of Asian Art, SOAS)

This event is part of the Decolonising Curating and the Museum in Southeast Asia lecture series .

Burmese monks blessing the arrival of a Buddha image during the installation for Cities and Kings: Treasures from Ancient Myanmar held at the ACM (2 December 2016 to 5 March 2017).


Increasingly, there are calls worldwide to decolonise museums. This lecture will discuss the key issues in this regard and explore initiatives that have attempted to decolonise curatorial practice in both a global and Southeast Asian context. Decolonisation can take many forms including, but not limited to, requests for culturally sensitive material to be re-displayed in a more appropriate manner or removed altogether, co-curation of exhibitions with source communities, restitution of human remains and looted material, to theoretical discussions on the frameworks of knowledge that museums are situated within and propagate.

Many museums in Southeast Asia have their origins in nineteenth and early twentieth century European colonialism and their collections and modes of curatorial display continue to reflect this to greater or lesser degrees. However, local forms of knowledge and ways of interacting with objects can and do exist side by side with this dominant western curatorial model. In recent years, there has been a greater acknowledgement of the problematic origins of colonial collections, the frameworks of knowledge under which museums operate, and how this is translated into methods of curatorial interpretation and display. This lecture, and the series as a whole, will thus explore what decolonial practice in a Southeast Asian context can and does look like.

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What does decolonial curatorial practice look like in a Global and Southeast Asian context?

Speaker Biography

Stephen A. Murphy is Pratapaditya Pal Senior Lecturer in Curating and Museology of Asian Art at SOAS University of London. He specialises in the art and archaeology of first millennium CE Buddhism and Hinduism in Southeast Asia and and looks at connections between this region and the wider Indian Ocean world. His museological focus engages with issues surrounding colonialism and post-colonial studies, and debates surrounding the decolonising of museums.

Discussant Biography

M.L. Pattaratorn Chirapravati is a professor at California State University, Sacramento, and former Director of the Asian Studies Program. She specialises in Buddhist art and Southeast Asian visual cultures. She has published extensively on ancient Buddhist art and modern Southeast Asian art. She co-curated two major art exhibitions at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco entitled The Kingdom of Siam: Art from Central Thailand (1530–1800) and Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma (1775–1950) .

Organiser: SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies and SOAS Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme

Contact email: centres@soas.ac.uk