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Toward a pedagogy of feeling: understanding how museums create a space for cross-cultural encounters

posted on 10.07.2015, 00:00 authored by Andrea WitcombAndrea Witcomb
In this chapter I engage with two developments – a growing understanding that citizenship involves political activity on the part of citizens in the public sphere and that affective relationships are an important aspect of this activity – to engage with the increasing use of affective interpretation strategies within exhibitions. I argue that the use of these strategies can be understood as the beginning of a new moment in museological practice that is concerned not so much with finding ways to become more pluralistic in who is represented within museums but with building opportunities for cross-cultural encounters in ways that question established relationships between self and other. I call this new moment “a pedagogy of feeling,” marking it as distinctive from both “a pedagogy of walking,” a term used by Tony Bennett to encapsulate the specific exhibition strategies that supported evolutionary narratives, and “a pedagogy of listening,” which I suggest marks the moment when exhibition practices were concerned with finding ways to increase the number of voices found in museum exhibitions as part of a civic program to encourage greater degrees of tolerance. Central to a pedagogy of feeling is, I argue, the idea of a “terrible gift” (as Roger Simon calls it), which is enacted through an exhibition syntax that uses a wide variety of affective or sensorial interpretation strategies.


Title of book

Museum theory


International handbooks of museum studies

Chapter number



321 - 344



Place of publication

Chichester, Eng





Publication classification

B1 Book chapter

Copyright notice

2015, Wiley




A Witcomb, K Message