How to deal with the legacies of colonial and other problematic pasts is a
challenge shared by most museums of ethnography and ethnology. In this introduction
to the following special section on the same topic, the section editors provide an overview
and analysis of the burdens and potentials of the past in such museums. They set
out different strategies that have been devised by ethnographic museums, identifying
and assessing the most promising approaches. In doing so, they are especially concerned
to consider the cosmopolitan potential of ethnographic museums and how this might
be best realized. This entails explaining how the articles that they have brought together
can collectively go beyond state-of-the-art approaches to provide new insight not only
into the difficulties but also into the possibilities for redeploying ethnographic collections
and formats toward more convivial and cosmo-optimistic futures.
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