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A Programme of Absolute Disorder

A Programme of Absolute Disorder

Decolonizing the Museum

by Françoise Vergès

Foreword by Paul Gilroy

Translated by Melissa Thackway

A call to end the Western museum

The Western museum is a battleground—a terrain of ideological, political and economic contestation. Calls for its decolonisation have washed like great breakers over the institution; almost everyone today wants to "rethink the museum". But how many have the audacity to question the very presuppositions of the universal museum itself?

In A Programme of Absolute Disorder, Françoise Vergès puts the museum in its place. With a specific focus on the history of the Louvre, she centres the context in which the universal museum emerged: as a product of the Enlightenment and colonialism, of a Europe which presents itself as the guardian of the heritage of all mankind.

Discussing the impasses in the representation of slavery, and examining unsuccessful attempts to subvert the museum institution, Vergès outlines a radical horizon: to truly decolonise the museum is to implement a 'programme of absolute disorder', inventing other ways of apprehending the human and non-human world that nourish collective creativity and bring justice and dignity to populations who have been dispossessed of it.

Françoise Vergès is a political scientist, activist, historian, film writer, and public educator. She is the author of A Decolonial Feminism and A Feminist History of Violence. She is also a senior research fellow at the Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation, University College London.

Melissa Thackway is an independent researcher and translator. She lectures in African Cinema at Sciences-Po and INALCO in Paris. Her recent translations include A Feminist Theory of Violence by Françoise Vergès, Contemporary African Cinema by Olivier Barlet, Tropical Dream Palaces: Cinema-Going in Colonial West Africa by Odile Goerg and African Diasporic Cinema: Aesthetics of Reconstruction by Daniela Ricci.

'A complete overhaul of the Western museum tradition'

- Publishers Weekly

'An impressive critique of the universal museum as complicit in the ongoing damages inflicted by colonial power structures. Françoise Vergès gives us the tools to harness our imagination in order to build new art institutions for a different future.'

- Isaac Julien, filmmaker and installation artist

'A thought-provoking demonstration that should fascinate anyone interested in social justice, post-colonialism and the arts'

- Euronews

'Vergès offers, in the wake of Frantz Fanon, a powerful reflection … The Western museum is a tool of domination which must be deconstructed in a post-racist and post-capitalist world. Powerful and so relevant'

- Diacritik

'The post-museum era has come. Museums without objects, museums of the present, living museums, museums of oral speech, museums of the great disorders of the world... There is no shortage of ideas for those who still know how to dream'

- Hors-Serie

'Enacting the decolonial task to imagine and practice a post museum, Vergès also enacts the gargantuan task of a post historical, post epistemic archive. This obliges the absolute disorder of the structures of thought and feeling that sustain the impossibility of history and knowledge unoccupied by the modern archive. Showing it should be done, Vergès offers creative joyful relentlessness towards decolonial worlds.'

- Marisol de la Cadena, Professor of Anthropology, Science & Technology Studies,University of California, Davis

'A brilliant book on how to order the disorder of colonized spaces while finding new pathways to discuss what it means to question rage and embrace new narratives on the once invisible structures of museums. Françoise Vergès skillfully writes a manifesto of sorts that shifts the paradigm and re-imagines a world as if there was no West with a curious wit, fearless irony, and a clear sense of underpinning hope.'

- Deborah Willis, artist, New York University

'One of the greatest thinkers of our time, surprises us again with a brilliant work on decolonising the museum. Françoise Vergès demonstrates how insidiously the museum contemplates a colonial order, and offers an intelligent, critical and vivid new approach. A Programme of Absolute Disorder is a masterpiece required reading'

- Grada Kilomba, interdisciplinary artist and writer

1. A Programme of Absolute Disorder
2. The Museum: A Battlefield
3. The Louvre, Napoleon, Capture, the Slave
4. Black is the model, white the frame
5. A Museum without Objects
Epilogue: Decolonial Tactics

Published by Pluto Press in Jul 2024
Hardcover ISBN: 9780745349619
eBook ISBN: 9780745349626

153mm x 234mm