Peace as "Legal Common Sense": The Case of Cultural Governance through Human Rights Museums

John Erni

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


This paper critically engages with the growth of cultural actions among governments, urban policy makers,and various kinds of cultural institutions to find ways to translate human rights into accessible ideas andpractices for the public for the overall purpose of promoting peace. Broadly, there has been increasinginterest in the utility of “cultural well-being” for promulgating a common understanding of rights and peacein conflict-ridden times. An important type of relevant project seen in the last three decades is theconstruction of human rights museums. As a public cultural institution, a “human rights museum” (HRM) isdefined in this project as one that engages in collecting and curatorial exhibition of artifacts with a twofoldmission to educate/advocate for the mainstreaming of rights and to memorialize past events of trauma.This definition is consistent with the International Council of Museums’ general definition, according to theICOM Statutes (adopted in 2007). Added to this generality are two important dimensions pursuant to HRMs,namely their relation to cultural governance and to the engendering of a "legal common sense." How doHRMs articulate, manage, and execute their visions of social memorialization and cultural transformation, if not reparation? What sociopolitical factors influence their work? What legal norms and mandates do theyattempt to meet in order to help shift nations and groups towards a justice-oriented and “truth-telling”understanding of past violence? What cutting edge museological techniques do they employ? Overall, whatis the effectiveness in their utility of culture to deliver and promote the message of peace at the grassrootslevel and how (or whether) their capacity to do so can be increased?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2020
Event7th Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference, PCRC2020 - Bangkok, Thailand
Duration: 3 Dec 20205 Dec 2020


Conference7th Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference, PCRC2020
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