Trauma and repair in the museum: an introduction

Walsh, Maria and Kokoli, Alexandra M. ORCID logoORCID: (2022) Trauma and repair in the museum: an introduction. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society . ISSN 1088-0763 [Article] (Published online first) (doi:10.1057/s41282-022-00290-4)

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Despite its considerable investment in questions of memory, attachments between subjects and objects, and trauma and its treatment, psychoanalysis has been largely sidelined in the unfolding reassessment of museums. This introduction to the special issue on ‘Trauma and Repair in the Museum’, which aims to reintroduce psychoanalytic perspectives in these debates, outlines the issues around reparation that surround the modern museum due to the traumatic legacies of coloniality. Timothy P. Brown’s notion of how the trauma of displacement and dissociation effects both objects and communities is key to our consideration of the museum as symptomatic of trauma, as is Cathy Caruth’s reading of history as trauma. Referring to several artists’ practices, such as Lisa Reihana, Erika Tan, and especially Kader Attia’s concept of repair, as well as a number of museological approaches to restitution, we expand on the complexities of ongoing coloniality and its implication with museums as institutions, practices of collection and display, and highly charged psychoactive spaces. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s rereading of Melanie Klein’s notion of reparation allows us to posit a form of decolonial repair that involves the assembling of damaged part-objects into ‘something like a whole [but] not necessarily like any preexisting whole’ (2003, p. 128, original emphasis). This approach enables a reckoning with trauma and its legacies that keeps them visible without ruling out processes of reparation. We follow our outline of trauma and repair in the museum with summaries of our contributors’ articles, which expose and unpack the mutual implication of collections, institutions and displays with patriarchy, colonialism and racial capitalism through the critical discourse of contestation, while also acknowledging the potential of museums to overcome their traumatic origins.

Item Type: Article
Sustainable Development Goals:
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > CREATE/Feminisms cluster
Item ID: 35157
Notes on copyright: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Walsh, M., Kokoli, A. Trauma and repair in the museum: an introduction. Psychoanal Cult Soc (2022). is available online at:
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Depositing User: Alexandra Kokoli
Date Deposited: 24 May 2022 16:33
Last Modified: 16 May 2023 03:04

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