Putting People on Display
Cultural Engagement, GSA Students' Association

Event Type:

The GSA Public Lecture


The Assembly Hall GSA Students' Association 20 Scott Street Glasgow


5 Feb 2018

Mon 11:00 - 17:00



Race, Rights and Sovereignty
Lecture series established as partnership between GSA Students' Association and GSA Public Lecture Series

Putting People on Display

Event info

Putting People on Display

Monday, 5th February 2018
11am - 5pm

Free, but ticketed. 
Please book by clicking here.

The Assembly Hall, GSA Students' Association

This event is part of the 'Race, Rights and Sovereignty' series. Established as a partnership between the Glasgow School of Art Students' Association (GSASA) and Cultural Engagement Public Lecture Series, this series seeks to celebrate, challenge, inspire and inform the next generation of artists, designers and architects about race and empower them to have a creative voice. There are several events throughout the academic year, please click here.

Putting People on Display is a pared-down version of a major exhibition, Human Zoos: the Invention of the Savage, organised by the French colonial history research group, ACHAC, which was held at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris in 2011/12. This display of 22 banner-style posters charting the history of 'putting people on display' will tour Scottish Universities in the academic year 2017/18.

This seminar will present the panels on display for the public to view ahead of an afternoon of presentations and discussions surrounding some of the issues that the histories, display practices, national/local contexts and contemporary readings of these events, practices and relationships carry with them. The exhibition panels, which cover a range of historical periods, geographical locations and national contexts, raises many questions about putting people on display, and the forms of observation these practices involve. Drawing on the rich iconography surrounding the phenomenon, it also forces us to address the ethics of display and the extent to which access to often challenging imagery is essential to understanding this historical practice and its contemporary afterlives.

The afternoon will be led by John M. MacKenzie, Cllr. Graham Campbell and Aurella Yussuf. The seminar will seek to address questions/topics such as:

  • Display methodologies and the gaze in relation to race
  • The controversial nature of the 'museum voice' when dealing with issues of race or of ethnographic origin
  • How do we begin to discuss these histories, which have previously been dismissed and can be viewed as an 'awkward' or painful part of history?

Through these questions, and with the panels as prompts, we will examine the wider national and international context in which these practices emerged, through the period of the Great Exhibitions in the 19th century and into the 20th century, the manifestation of the sensationalising of the exotic (both rural and international), examine the Scottish link to these histories and begin to place these discussions within a contemporary practice.




Access to the Assembly Hall to view exhibition panels ahead of seminar
Welcome: Introductions and housekeeping
David Murphy: Introduction to Human Zoos: the Invention of the Savage
John M. MacKenzie: The Great Exhibitions and the history of 'putting people on display'. followed by discussion
- 5 min break -

Cllr. Graham Campbell: Decolonising the museum, Emancipation Acts and St. Mungo's Museum, followed by discussion
- 10 min break -
Aurella Yussuf: Who is 'we'? The spectacle and consumption of blackness in contemporary visual culture, followed by discussion



Aurella Yussuf is a writer, researcher and art historian. She is the founder of  Women of Colour Film Club, as well as a founding member of Thick/er Black Lines collective, whose work has been exhibited at Project Row Houses, Houston, and Tate Modern, London.

David Murphy is Professor of French and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Stirling. He has written widely about both modern West African culture and debates about race and identity in 20th/21st-century France. He is a long-term collaborator with the French colonial history research group, ACHAC, and he is the main organiser of the current Scottish univerisyt tour of a poster exhibition drawn from ACHAC's major exhibition, Human Zoos: the Invention of the Savage, which was held at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris in 2011/12. The poster exhibition will visit Glasgow School of Art,  

Cllr. Graham Campbell was elected Glasgow's and Scotland's first ever African Caribbean Councillor on May 4th 2017 as an SNP member for Springburn/Robroyston - Ward 17. Having co-founded Africans for an Independent Scotland in 2012 and Yes Provan - he has been a passionate advocate for socialism, Pan-Africanism and Scottish independence for 21 years. He grew up in North London and after living in England, Canada and Jamaica moved to Glasgow in 2002. He has a deep involvement as a community arts practitioner in Black History, music theatre and dance and is co-Director of African Caribbean Cultures Glasgow set up to perform the Emancipation Acts street theatre in 2014 during the Commonwealth Games. 

John M. MacKenzie has published several books on international exhibitions and the display of people: Propoganda and Empire (1984), Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts (1995), Orientalism Revisited, ed. Ian Netton (2013). Other relevant publications include the edited or co-edited Imperialism and Popular Culture (1986) and Exhibiting the Empire (2015). He is professor emeritus of imperial history at Lancaster University, holds honorary professorships of Aberdeen, St. Andrews and Edinburgh Universities, and is currently visiting professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The exhibition was developed in association with the Lilian Thuram Foundation, and is part of a wider commitment to understanding the historical roots of contemporary racism--and to contributing to anti-racist education. It has toured most of the major cities in France, various universities in the US, and was presented in Liverpool in Nov. 2016 as part of the British Academy's 'Being Human' Festival.

Fore more information: www.achac.com and www.thuram.org

Univ of Stirling

St Andrews