SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Gonzalez, Valerie (2022) 'The Religious Plot in Museums or the Lack Thereof: The Case of Islamic Art Display.' Religions, 13 (4). e281.

Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC-BY 4.0).

Download (10MB) | Preview


During the last decade, the curation of Islamic art and artifacts has been crossed by tensions at both the theoretical and practical level. Not only has it been continuously grappling with the Orientalist legacy, but it has also been operating in a global contemporaneity affected by multiple conflicts engendering a misperception of Muslims and Islam by non-Muslims. With this heavy background, this curation has been pursuing three main objectives: educating the public, decolonizing the museum, and reaching out to the Muslim communities and refugees living in non-Muslim societies. However, in the West, which remains worldly influential in the domain of heritage management, the first two objectives drove curators to engage in problematic practices, most notably the suppression of what we may call the “religious plot” in the exhibits’ narrative. Moreover, while the educational impulse led to a secular didactic scholasticism erected as the supreme exhibitory norm, the decolonizing enterprise took on an ideological turn in the form of a neo-postcolonial discourse at odds with a reality that has considerably changed since the seventies. Contesting the “being Islamic” of the material curated, this discourse separates religion from culture, thus relegating the faith to a theme among other multiple themes in the museum displays. That this state of affairs is problematic appears in crude light as, in the last decade, a new Muslim-led curatorship has been challenging this secularist curatorial politics. Re-centering Islam in the representational emplotment regarding Islamic culture in the exhibitory space and experimenting in the installations’ design to this effect, this curatorship, this essay’s author believes, holds the future of Islamic museology.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Islamic material religion, Islamic museology, museal phenomenology, Islamic art scholarship, display philosophy, postcoloniality
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of the History of Art & Archaeology
ISSN: 20771444
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2022 17:38

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item