Reading Zoos in the Age of the Anthropocene


11 November 2021
17:15 - 19:00

Keynote: Ayesha Keshani, Notes Towards a Cosmopolitical Museology, in and around the Sarawak Museum

Notes Towards a Cosmopolitical Museology,
in and around the Sarawak Museum

Keynote: Ayesha Keshani (Goldsmiths)
Thursday 11 November 2021
Online via Zoom

The legacy of the Sarawak Museum (East Malaysia) is as convoluted as Sarawak’s colonial history. While its natural history galleries bear the hallmarks of an archetypal colonial-era institution, throughout the Museum’s history, quietly disruptive curatorial practices have challenged the universalising ambitions of modernity/coloniality in relation to nature. These fleeting interventions engaged the agency of other-than-human beings and indigenous ecologies of practice, foregrounded opacity and divergence, and often revealed the ambivalent complicity of the colonial Museum itself. In thinking through the possibilities of cosmopolitical museology, this presentation threads together fragments of stories from the Museum’s galleries and archives, and from my wider art-research practice in Sarawak. Amidst postcolonial Malaysia’s economic reliance on extractivism and monoculture plantations, these stories trace multiple natures and fugitive practices to explore the frictions between coloniality, museum nature and cosmos.

Ayesha Keshani is an artist, museum worker and PhD researcher in the Visual Cultures department at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her practice-led research explores the histories and futures of natural history at the Sarawak Museum, Malaysian Borneo, and the potential of cosmopolitical museology as a decolonial strategy. She has worked with museums and cultural institutions between Malaysia and Vietnam since 2013.