Reclaiming the Human: Creolizing Feminist Pedagogy at Museum Frontiers

Published: May 1, 2015
Imoinda Pitt Rivers Museum tangible/intangible heritage creolization feminist pedagogy
Viv Golding
Maria Helena Lima

In this paper we reflect, together with a group of international students, on the affective and political power of texts and contexts. Our starting point is Joan Anim-Addo’s Imoinda, a text whose form, setting, and narrative structure render productive moments of “Relation” (Glissant), in which individuals and their historical experiences – rooted in colonial oppression – establish connection to each other through difference rather than commonality. We outline a series of collaborative teaching workshops designed with Andy McLellan, the Head of Education and his colleague Salma Caller at the Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford, which provided fresh ways to engage our students in the transnational space inherent in Imoinda, as well as in the tangible and intangible heritage that the Pitt Rivers Museum houses. The paper discusses how study of Anim-Addo’s libretto at a frontier site between the university and the museum can enhance understandings of the text and the context from which the work was created. Specifically, we argue that the value of such frontier work lies in progressing critical thinking, although Relation here is not simply cognitive, but vitally allows emotional and sensory re-connections with musical forms and art from around the globe to enrich intercultural knowledge. A major focus is on the development of a creolized feminist pedagogy at the museum frontiers that, without being naïve to hierarchies of power and control in the wider world of lived experience beyond institutions, is responsible. Such practice is dialogical in essence. It privileges careful listening and speaking amongst all participants – teachers and students – and strives to raise diverse voices through the embodied learning that multisensory activities with museum objects can promote. Most importantly, the interculturality of Imoinda in terms of text, music and context, reading, writing and witnessing creates another “contact zone” of sorts (to use Mary Louise Pratt’s term) which demands a re-examination of our paradigms for the analysis of subject formation and representation outside conventional binaries and across the Black Atlantic.

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Author Biographies
Viv Golding, University of Leicester
Viv Golding, prior to joining the University of Leicester (UoL) in 2002, had a varied professional career in London, organizing formal education at the Horniman Museum (1992-2002) and art for further education students (1980-1992). Her academic research is closely related to international museum practice and she was elected President of ICME (International Council of Museums of Ethnography) in 2013 ( She publishes widely and has gained funding to speak internationally on her research themes, including JSPS (2012, 2014). Her recent publications include: Golding, V. 2009, Learning at the Museum Frontiers: Identity, Race and Power, Ashgate. For further details see: 
Maria Helena Lima, SUNY Geneseo
Maria Helena Lima, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at SUNY Geneseo, was born in Brazil. Her research and teaching focus on Black Atlantic Writing. Some of her publications include “The Politics of Teaching Black and British” in Black British Writing(Palgrave 2004) and entries on Andrea Levy, Dorothea Smartt, and Meera Syal in the Dictionary of Literary Biography (Vol. 347, 2009).  With Miriam Alves, she translated and co-edited a bilingual anthology of fiction by Afro-Brazilian women, Women Righting/Mulheres Escrevendo (Mango 2005).  She has published “A Written Song: Andrea Levy’s Neo-Slave Narrative” in Entertext ( and “The Choice of Opera for a Revisionist History: Joan Anim-Addo’s Imoinda as a Neo-Slave Narrative,” in Transcultural Roots Uprising (2013).  She’s currently co-editing (with Joan Anim-Addo) a special issue of Callaloo on contemporary neo-slave narratives. 
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