Critical Realist Philosophy and the Possibility of an Eco-decolonial Museology

Thomas Carnegie Jeffery


New forms of museum practice that explore the dynamics of social and ecological processes as interlinked systems are increasingly urgent. Critical realist philosophy is used to consider the emergence of tensions between museological processes of decolonization and ecologization, and potentials for their resolution into a new form of practice, which is conceptualized as eco-decolonial. The analysis is focused on South African museums, but is contextualized within international theory and practice.
An exploration of the ontology of museum work surfaces a core tension in that trends towards a relational and emancipatory practice are paradoxically embedded within neoliberal ideology. Neoliberalism depends on and perpetuates the problematic human-nature dualism of the colonial era, and constrains the development of progressive social-ecological forms of museum practice. The analysis explores potentials for the resolution of this tension, in a contribution towards the transformation of the philosophical and theoretical frameworks of museum practice.


museums and environment; museums and decolonization; social media; interviews; critical realism.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Thomas Carnegie Jeffery

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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