Heterotopia or Carnival Site? Rethinking the Ethnographic Museum

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This article seeks to explore the Bakhtinian carnivalesque in relation to museums generally and to ethnographic museums in particular. The Bakhtinian carnivalesque is based on antihierarchicalism, laughter, embodiment, and temporality, and it has the potential to move museums away from a problematic association with heterotopia. Instead, the carnivalesque allows ethnographic museums to be recognized as active agents in the sociopolitical worlds around them, offers a lens through which to examine and move forward some current practices, and forces museums to reconsider their position and necessity. This article also reflects on the value of transdisciplinary approaches in museum studies, positioning literary theory in particular as a valuable analytical resource.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-47
Number of pages16
JournalMuseum Worlds
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Bakhtin
  • carnivalesque
  • ethnographic nuseums
  • heterotopia
  • literary theory
  • transdisciplinary approaches


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