Vulnerability as a Key Concept in Museum Pedagogy on Difficult Matters

Katrine Tinning

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskriftPeer review

6 Citeringar (SciVal)


In recent years there has been an increasing interest in museum studies in exhibitions on what is termed Difficult Matters (Silvén and Björklund 2006)—such as rape and mass murder—and how such exhibitions may evoke ethical change. This raises the question about the conditions on which such exhibitions can lead to an ethical change. By developing a conceptual framework this article contributes to museum studies on Difficult Matters demonstrating how vulnerability can work as a key concept in a relational pedagogical understanding of the conditions for ethical change. Inspired by feminist ethics the article suggests that there is an “ambivalent potentiality” of the concept of vulnerability (Murphy, in Violence and the philosophical imaginary, State University of New York Press, Albany, 2012) and forwards a double perspective on vulnerability as condition: vulnerability is inherent to the human condition and always situational. From this point of departure vulnerability is fleshed out as a key concept in museum pedagogy via pedagogical thinkers inspired by the philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas’ ethics. Concepts like heteronomy, incarnation, Face and Saying/Said are introduced to define vulnerability and the relation between exhibition and visitor is defined as a teaching–learning relation conditioned by vulnerability. Vulnerability is defined as openness to an encounter with the Other as being different, which is conditional of an ethical transformation of existing perceptions of self, others and the world. Finally, inspired by feminist philosophy (Butler, in Precarious life the powers of mourning and violence, Verso, London, 2006) a norm critical is introduced. It is argued that displaying Difficult Matters in order to evoke an ethical transformation museum professionals need consider critically the norms of vulnerability at play in particular situations. On this basis, the concept of vulnerability can serve as a lever for discussions on the pedagogy of exhibitions on Difficult Matters and the ethical responsibility of museum professionals in public museums in this regard.

Sidor (från-till)147-165
TidskriftStudies in Philosophy and Education
Tidigt onlinedatum2017 okt. 4
StatusPublished - 2018 mars

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Pedagogik


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