A Pedagogy of Witnessing

Curatorial Practice and the Pursuit of Social Justice

By Roger I. Simon

Subjects: Cultural Studies, Education, American Studies, African American Studies, American History
Series: SUNY series, Transforming Subjects: Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Studies in Education
Paperback : 9781438452708, 280 pages, January 2015
Hardcover : 9781438452692, 280 pages, August 2014

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Table of contents

Foreword by Mario Di Paolantonio
1. Exhibiting Archival Photographs of Racial Violence as a Pedagogy of Witness
2. Without Sanctuary Exhibitions at the Andy Warhol Museum and Chicago Historical Society
3. The Curatorial Work of Exhibiting Archival Photographs of Lynching in America
4. Public Performance in the Social Space of Museum Comment Books: Without Sanctuary Exhibitions and the Extended Conversation about Race in America
5. Curatorial Judgment, the Pedagogical Framing of Exhibitions, and the Relation of Affect and Thought
6. Some Closing Remarks on Curatorial Practice and the Pursuit of Social Justice

Explores the curating of “difficult knowledge” through the exhibition of lynching photographs in contemporary museums.


This outstanding comparative study on the curating of "difficult knowledge" focuses on two museum exhibitions that presented the same lynching photographs. Through a detailed description of the exhibitions and drawing on interviews with museum staff and visitor comments, Roger I. Simon explores the affective challenges to thought that lie behind the different curatorial frameworks and how viewers' comments on the exhibitions perform a particular conversation about race in America. He then extends the discussion to include contrasting exhibitions of photographs of atrocities committed by the German army on the Eastern Front during World War II, as well as to photographs taken at the Khmer Rouge S-21 torture and killing center. With an insightful blending of theoretical and qualitative analysis, Simon proposes new conceptualizations for a contemporary public pedagogy dedicated to bearing witness to the documents of racism.

Roger I. Simon (1942–2012) was Professor Emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, and the author of several books, including The Touch of the Past: Remembrance, Learning, and Ethics.