Exhibiting slavery, methodologies and practices

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

  • Wednesday 11th May: 9:30am - 7:00pm
  • Thursday 12th May: 9:30am - 7:00pm
  • Friday 13th May: 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 as a “crime against humanity.” The Law required the government to install a committee which would, after a wide consultation, propose a date for a day of national rembrance of the slave trade, slavery and their abolition, and suggest actions within 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 the 10th May, date when the 2001 Law had been voted, as the national day of rembrance of slave trade, slavery and their abolition. It also proposed to create a memorial and national resource center 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 10th May the national day of rembrance of the 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 Government renewed the Committee's mission. It took the name of “Committee for the Memory and History of Slavery.”


To celebrate the law's tenth anniversary 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 concerning slavery and the way it is dealt with by 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 the 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. The phenomenon impacted the different continents, 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 implicated by these transformations.


The exhibition of the 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 should torture, punishment, exile, loss, resistance, the fabrication of assent, complicity, creativity and the contemporary traces of this long history be shown? When and where should we start? 


The colloqium's participants will start by discussing these questions before moving onto concrete experiences in museums, sites of memory or by artists.


The colloqium's objective is to enrich the debate on “the enslaved in the museum” by confronting concrete experience, analyzing the controversies that have emerged and the solutions that have been imagined.


The colloquium is organized in roundtables. Each roundtable will be introduced by a concise 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, the proceedings of which will be published.

free entrance, first come first serve basis

to consult the program, please click here