chapter  7
22 Pages

Exhibition, difference and the logic of culture

A good deal of contemporary museum theory and practice has concerned itself with the ways in which museum environments – and the social and symbolic exchanges that take place within them – might be refashioned so as to transform museums into ‘differencing machines’ committed to the promotion of cross cultural understanding, especially across divisions that have been racialised. The question I want to pose here is whether this aspiration involves a series of collateral changes which, taken together, add up to a more general change in how museums operate and their situation within the cultural fi eld. Or, to put the point more rhetorically: does the conception of the museum as a ‘differencing machine’ aspire to new forms of dialogism that place earlier notions of exhibition into question? In doing so, I want also to review, and qualify, the concept of the exhibitionary complex by arguing the need to view the operations of this complex in the broader perspective of what, for the purposes of my argument here, I shall call the logic of culture.