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Refusing the “Gift” of Integration

Narratives of Migration at the Galerie des dons

Abigail E. Celis

Abstract

France's Musée national de l'histoire de l'immigration (MNHI) was founded in Paris in 2007, with the stated mission to change popular perceptions on immigration at a time of rising xenophobia. Within the MNHI is the Galerie des dons, an exhibition space dedicated to personal objects donated by immigrants and their families. Combining a museological and a new materialism approach, this article analyzes the textual mediation, spatial organization, material qualities, and social biographies of objects in the Galerie des dons collection as it existed from 2014 to 2019 in order to evaluate the MNHI's “new” narratives of immigration. It concludes that while the curatorial choices tend to reproduce an integration-oriented story of immigration, the individual objects in the Galerie serve as dissenting voices that complicate the institutional narrative.