Foucault's Museum: Difference, Representation, and Genealogy

Beth Lord

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Foucault’s work has been used to promote a negative view of the museum as
    an Enlightenment institution that embodies state power and strives to order the
    world according to universal rules and the concept of a total history. This article
    argues that an analysis of Foucault’s work actually leads to a view of the
    museum that is positive and progressive for dismantling the very notions of
    historical continuity and coherence that Foucault rejects. This gives the museum
    a unique status for Foucault, as an institution that has its origins in the
    Enlightenment values or ‘capabilities’ that enable us to overcome the relations
    of power that are based on those Enlightenment values. The museum exemplifies
    the tension in Foucault’s position on the Enlightenment: that we must rely on
    Enlightenment values of critique, freedom and progress in order to reject the
    Enlightenment relations of power that have been based on these values. The
    first part of the paper suggests a Foucaultian definition of the museum as a
    space of difference and space of representation. The second part argues that
    on the basis of this definition, the museum has the potential to enact Foucault’s
    genealogy, and to contribute to progress.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-14
    Number of pages14
    JournalMuseum and Society
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


    • Museum
    • Foucault
    • genealogy
    • enlightenment
    • Representation
    • Difference
    • history / critique


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