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Alisa Maximova (

National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia

Citation: Maximova A. (2019) Razvitiye podkhodov k izucheniyu muzeyev v sotsial'nykh i gumanitarnykh naukakh [The development of approaches to studying museums in social sciences and the humanities]. Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsialnoy antropologii [The Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology], 22(2): 118-146 (in Russian).

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Abstract. The paper aims at analyzing conceptual approaches in Museum Studies and their development. Definition of the museum, its functions and effects is not stable and unchallenged. Likewise, subject area of Museum studies is diverse in terms of disciplinary perspectives, premises, methods and approaches. Transformation in cultural life, as well as notorious cases and outstanding academic research works have influenced how museums are conceptualized. Literature analysis proves that in the field of Museum Studies the dominant approach regards power relations. It often uses concepts developed in the works of Michel Foucault. Power relations may be viewed in three ways: first, as the “civilizing” or disciplinary museum, second, as the representing museum, and third, as institute that reproduces inequality. However, the author argues that in the last two decades, there has been a tendency to focus on agency and microlevel. Consequently, there are research questions that emphasize actor and analysis of her activity, reception and reaction. These two alternative approaches to museum — power relations and macrostructures, on the one hand, and agency and everyday phenomena on the other, — are revealed in tree thematic subfields of research: museum materiality, knowledge construction, and communication. In conclusion, we present recent transformations in social science and museum practice and formulate new questions for future research.

Keywords: museum sociology, Michel Foucault, Museum Studies, audience, agency, interpretation, power.


The article was prepared within the framework of the HSE University Basic Research Program and funded by the Russian Academic Excellence Project '5-100'.


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