Professor of Indian Art and Architecture, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Historian, Writer, Comedian and Curator at University College London Culture, London, UK
Alarming environmental shifts and crises have raised public awareness of and anxieties regarding the future of the planet. While planetary in cause and scale, the negative effects of this global crisis are unequally distributed, affecting most intensely some of those whose positions are already most fragile, including indigenous and formerly colonized peoples and contributing to rising global insecurity and inequality. Some scholars have argued that these anxieties should be taken as connected with another prominent set of anxieties around the ‘announced’ failure of the plural democracies that have become commonplace in many countries across the world.
The project TAKING CARE - Ethnographic and World Cultures Museums as Spaces of Care started on October 1, 2019 and places Ethnographic and World Cultures Museums at the centre of the search for possible strategies to address these issues. TAKING CARE is a large-scale European cooperation project led by the Weltmuseum Wien; scheduled to run for four years, it brings together fourteen partner organisations and is co-financed by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, which has contributed two million euro. The project is framed around the notion of care, and will explore under-tapped potential of these museums, for thinking critically about planetary pasts and about sustainable, convivial futures. Our claim is that World Culture Museums should no longer be conceived primarily as repositories of heritage to be preserved. They are places of encounter and practice, of social experimentations and innovation, of knowledges and skills, where diverse ways of knowing and being in and with the world, and narratives of diversity can be (re)discovered, co-created and publicly shared. Within Europe, such caring/careful (full of care) spaces are needed more than ever.
The project is organised around a set of interlinked themes, along a scale that starts from the museum as a site for care, opening towards thinking about the caring for the planet and its future, then on questions related to the unequal sharing of heritage resources and restitution. These themes will be explored in a shared programme of workshops, artist-based research, creative residencies and exhibitions, small-scale lab meetings, and collaborative publications, working through a range of participatory models, from small-group, hands-on sessions to wider public events.