Exhibiting slavery, methodologies and practices

Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 May 2011 théâtre Claude Lévi-Strauss

  • Wednesday May 11 :  9:30am - 7:00pm
  • Thursday May 12 : 9:30am - 7:00pm
  • Friday May13 : 9:30am - 6:00 pm

A tribute to Edouard Glissant (1928-2011)

As part of the celebration of « 2011 l’année des Outre-mer”

With the support of the Cultural services of the American Embassy and of the Permanent Delegation of Colombia to UNESCO




In May 2001, the French Parliament unanimously voted a law recognizing slave trade and slavery “crime against humanity.” The Law required the government to install a committee which would, after a wide consultation, propose a date for the national day of the memories of slave trade, slavery and their abolition, and suggest actions in the fields of education, research and culture to promote knowledge about this history and its legacies.


The Committee for the Memory of Slavery was officially installed in 2004 under the presidency of Maryse Condé. In its first report to the Prime Minister in April 2005, the committee suggested to choose May 10th, date of the vote of the 2001 Law, as the national day of the memories of slave trade, slavery and their abolition. It also proposed to create a memorial and national center of resources in Paris, to organize the training of teachers, to actively support research and to promote cultural programs on the theme of slavery.


In February 2006, the French government followed the Committee‘s suggestion and made May 10th the national day of the memories of slave trade, slavery and their abolition. Each year, the government organizes the official ceremony in Paris. In 2007, a monument was inaugurated in the Jardin du Luxembourg. In 2009, the mission of the Committee was renewed by the government. It took the name of “Committee for the Memory and History of Slavery.”


For the tenth anniversary of the law in 2011, the Comité pour la mémoire et l’histoire de l’esclavage (CPMHE, Committee for the Memory and History of Slavery) and the musée du quai Branly (MQB) are co-organizing an international colloquium on the methods, practices and discourses about slavery in museums.


Entitled “Exhibiting Slavery: Methods and Practices in the museum”, its aim is to bring together scholars, curators, art historians and artists from France, Guadeloupe, Martinique, La Reunion, Columbia, Togo, Brazil, United States, and Great Britain to share their experience, confront concrete questions and problems raised by the "exhibition" of slave trade and slavery and the long struggle for their abolition.


In the last decades, historians have renewed our understanding of a “catastrophe” that lasted centuries before it was outlawed, covered continents, affected the law, the arts, philosophy, literature, music, techniques, food, beliefs… The cartography of the world was deeply transformed.


The legacies of slavery are complex and multiple: experience of exile and deportation, despair and resistance, creation of new cultures, beliefs, cultures, knowledge (witness Creole cultures). Slaves contributed to the extension of democracy and human rights with their relentless struggle against bondage and for freedom. The abolitionist movement was among the first transcontinental movements for human rights.


The museum, a site of exhibition, of debates and exchanges, a site where citizenship is debated and expanded, is obviously interested by these transformations.


The exhibition of slave trade, slavery and their abolition raises numerous questions. Why and how should the slave “enter the museum”? What shall we show and how? How to show torture, punishment, exile, loss, resistance, the fabrication of assent, complicity, creativity and the contemporary traces of this long history? When and where should we start? 


The participants to the colloquium will start with these questions before moving to concrete experiences in museums, sites of memory or by artists.


The objective of the colloquium is to enrich the debate on “the enslaved in the museum” by confronting concrete experience, analyzing the controversies that emerged and the solutions that were imagined.


The colloquium is organized in roundtables. Each roundtable will be introduced by a synthetic résumé of the theme, followed by the contribution of the speakers and a discussion with the public. A general synthesis and a general debate will close the colloquium whose proceedings will be published.

free entrance, first come first serve basis

to consult the program, please click here

Exposer l'esclavage 11-12-13 mai 2011