Exclusion through Inclusion?: Museum Architecture and the Institutionalization of Critique





Architecture, Military History Museum Dresden, Humboldt Forum Berlin, Critique, Institutionalization


Architecture is not only a social product; the social is also constituted through architecture. This holds particularly true for the museum. Museum architecture is a spatialized expression of social order and an infrastructure through which collective imaginations are generated. I will show how the German Bundeswehr uses its principal museum to apply a post-heroic mode of identity formation. The Bundeswehr has to distance itself from the past while it also has to articulate a minimum of historic continuity to legitimize itself. The Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr (Dresden) achieves this through a twofold spatial tactic. First, through a dramatic architectural intervention, and secondly, through the interpretation of this spatial arrangement. Articulated in and through architecture, the ‘critical engagement with the past’ becomes institutionalized. Providing a sociological explanation of why the critical negation of the past became a prominent narrative within German memorial culture, I argue, that it allows for a coherent self-narration below the horizon of historical fractures and multiple conflicts in the refigured modernity. Although a similar discourse is at work at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, its affirmative architecture, however, contradicts any claims of a ‘critical engagement with the past’.

Author Biography

Jochen Samuel Kibel, TU Berlin Department of Sociology Sociology of Planning and Architecture DFG-SFB 1265 Refiguration of Spaces

Jochen Kibel is a research assistant at the Department of Sociology of Planning and Architecture at TU Berlin and a member of the DFG Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1265 Re-Figuration of Spaces. He is the principal investigator of the CRC subproject A05 Being Home: Living Spaces and Self-Images of the Kenyan Middle Class. Jochen received his doctorate in the DFG Research Training Group 2227 Identity and Heritage with a thesis on identity discourses and museum architectures. His research fields include the sociology of space and architecture, the sociology of social memory and heritage, subjectivation and discourse research, and postcolonial theories.




How to Cite

Kibel, J. S. (2024). Exclusion through Inclusion?: Museum Architecture and the Institutionalization of Critique. Museum & Society, 22(1), 34–50. https://doi.org/10.29311/mas.v22i1.4371



Museums Refigured