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Intimate International Relations at the Museum: A Method

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JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
DateE-pub ahead of print - 3 Dec 2019
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)117-142.
Original languageEnglish


This article proposes a method for analysing museums as sites of intimate and colonially-produced international relations. Beginning with fieldwork that approaches museums as sites through which people intimately encounter the objects, institutions, selves and others of international politics, we explore how intimacy can be ‘read’ as socio-sexual affect, scales and proximities, and colonial differentiation/racialisation. The article is grounded in fieldwork at the British Army Royal Engineers Museum in Kent, UK, conceptualised as an assembly of, following Stoler, imperial debris. We explore how certain museum exhibits work as intimate ‘organising objects’, locating the museum collection, and those who visit or are excluded from it, within the intimate circulations of imperial and colonial violence. The article makes two core contributions: first, responding to recent literature in IR on museums we propose a framework for understanding how museums and exhibitions function as everyday sites of coloniality and racialisation. Second, we propose that approaching intimacy as a method is instructive for fieldwork in international relations (including museums) which takes the colonial constitution of the global/local seriously.

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© 2020 by Millennium: Journal of International Studies. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

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