Tuesday, 20 May 2014

THESIS REFLECTION: QUEERING MUSEUMS

BY: NICOLE RITCHIE

My name is Nicole Ritchie, and I entered the Master of Museum Studies program in collaboration with Sexual Diversity Studies in September 2013.  As the third contributor to the thesis column this summer, I will give you a brief overview of my background and my research.

I graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction in Women’s Studies and Art History.  Throughout my undergrad, I volunteered at a variety of museums, galleries, and collections, which led to my interest in arts and cultural institutions and my application to the MMSt program.  This included collections management and curatorial work at the Clothing and Textile Collection at the University of Alberta, the Royal Alberta Museum, the Bata Shoe Museum, Lando Art Gallery and Auctions, and, currently, the Sexual Representation Collection. With this background in practical expertise intertwined with my love of feminist and queer theory, my thesis topic emerged.



My thesis will interrogate and conceptualize the theoretical foundation of non-normative – that is, values and ideas that do not uphold the dominant social system – arts and cultural space through the act of ‘queering’.  This will involve looking at several major academic bodies of literature – museum studies, queer theory, affect theory, and social and cultural geography studies.  I will engage with these fields, drawing innovative connections that contribute to both new theoretical dialogues as well as new possibilities for museum practice.  As well, I will engage with museums as participants within and tools of neoliberalism, which is a frame that, I believe, is valuable to interrogate in the context of queer theory – a field that insistently criticizes neoliberal values, such as that of normativity and inclusivity.  Throughout my thesis, I will reference various examples of museum practice to demonstrate current museum practices that either perpetuate a normative paradigm or develop a ‘queer’ space in order to enhance and highlight various aspects of my argument.  

This engagement will be guided by various themes that are reflected in my research questions:

  • How can queer and affect theory be utilized to think about non-normative arts and cultural space?  
  • How can these spaces be queered, and what does ‘queering’ accomplish for the theoretical development of museum identity and space and the potentialities of practice?  
  • In what ways do specific practices of museum studies, such as ‘difficult knowledge’, preservation, and commemoration, speak in dialogue with practices of queer theory, such as the formation of ‘archives’ and queer historiography? 

My project is significant for engaging museology in dialogue with queer theory, affect theory, and theories of social and cultural geography, but also for the development of non-normative museum methods, practices, and experiences that reflect the growing contemporary discussion of ‘queer’ in society. 

My thesis committee is composed of a communications and museum studies scholar, Dr. Irina Mihalache, and a feminist and queer technology studies scholar, Dr. Patrick Keilty.  Thus, my committee forms a dynamic and well-rounded grouping in order to support my diverse interests and fields of research.    

Now here’s to executing this!  Stay tuned for my progress on June 9th!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Nicole! I like very much the diversity of the thesis projects for next year - from queering museums to prints as archives to public funding - what a treat to see all these topics in one single place. And I am so happy to see the boldness of your interrogations which are not only theoretically significant but could help cultural institutions to do better museum work!

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