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Responsive Dialogues: Critical Issues + Conversations

How should museums respond to current events or issues in the world? At MOA we understand our role is to reflect and address pressing issues of the times by making connections to our work: stewarding collections, working with communities of origin, facilitating cultural sharing and fostering diverse ways of understanding the world. 

The Responsive Dialogues: Critical Issues + Conversations series is one way of bringing that work to light, and is part of an institution-wide commitment to anti-colonial practice. We recognize that museums, including MOA, are complicit in the colonization of Indigenous peoples worldwide. As such we have a commitment to anti-colonial practice, which means challenging and dismantling the structures of power that have sought to erase Indigenous cultures, languages and ways of life. In that spirit, the Responsive Dialogues series illustrates the connections between critical issues and colonialism worldwide through informed conversation.

Responsive Dialogues emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a means to promote constructive social activism that aims to create positive change. The series began with a focus on racism in Canada and the first dialogue examined the systemic and ongoing racism and oppression directed at Indigenous communities, present in this country through state and institutional policies for generations. It continued with examinations of recent, yet deeply rooted, anti-Black and anti-Asian violence across North America.

The Responsive Dialogues series evolved from a previous initiative called the Rapid Response Case, a small display in the museum lobby that addressed current affairs, and exhibited several displays from September 2017 to March 2020. 


In this dialogue, architectural historians Rana Abughannam and Dr. Nadi Abusaada discuss Palestine’s urban landscapes and how they have been shaped through history by British mandate and Israeli state policies and actions. Taking an anti-colonial lens, the conversation addresses the urban histories of Jaffa and Hebron and their connection to the current siege on Gaza. This dialogue is moderated by historian Dr. Hicham Safieddine.

A Dialogue on Anti-Chinese Racism: Linking the Past to the Present

In this dialogue, Dr. Tzu-I Chung, curator of history at the Royal British Columbia Museum, and MOA’s Senior Marketing and Communications Manager Bonnie Sun consider anti-Asian racism, particularly anti-Chinese racism, through the lens of history and the contributions of the first generations of Chinese immigrants to Canada.

Anti-Asian Racism in the Historical Context: The Dispossession of Japanese Canadians

In this dialogue, Sherri Kajiwara, director and curator of the Nikkei National Museum and MOA Curator of Asia, Fuyubi Nakamura consider anti-Asian racism in the context of historical injustice done to the Japanese Canadian communities in relation to the Broken Promises exhibition at the Nikkei National Museum, which derives from the seven-year collaborative research project, Landscapes of Injustice. Learn about the Landscapes of Injustice project and view this searchable archive database.

Racism in Colonial Canada: An Indigenous Perspective

In our first dialogue, MOA’s Library + Archives Assistant, Emily Teh, speaks with Jacqueline (Jacquie) Adams, who is from Ahousaht and ʔiiḥatisatḥ činax̣int First Nation, about her perspective on racism in Canada. Read the full transcipt of the dialogue.

Related Stories

Viruses Have No Nationality: Images of “Asia” during the Pandemic

Photo: Fuyubi Nakamura.

MOA Curator Fuyubi Nakamura wrote a response to anti-asian sentiments during the earlier days of the pandemic. Learn about her experiences wearing masks—which are often racialized— in public, and consider the impacts of images of “Asia” during the pandemic.  Read now.

MOA Minds: Who Do Museums Stand With? 

Titilope Salami speaks on Zoom. CC text says: I mean African art as, the prices.
Titilope Salami in Episode 1 of MOA Minds.

Who do museums stand with? What do they stand against? How are some museums transforming themselves into new platforms to engage in the struggle for social and environmental justice? In this episode of MOA Minds Titilope Salami, guest curator, and Anthony Shelton, Director of MOA, discuss issues around the roles and responsibilities of museums and galleries in an increasingly polarized world and ask how they can become effective activists. Watch now.

In Process: Decolonizing MOA’s African Collections + Displays

L–R: MOA Collection: K2.296 a-b, K2.241 a-b, K2.297 a-b, K2.295 a-b. Photo by Alina Ilyasova.

MOA Curator for Africa and South America Nuno Porto details the ongoing project to decolonize the African Collections and Displays at the Museum of Anthropology, or DAC-MOA as it is called internally in this MOA story. One of their key goals is to contribute towards the “decolonization” of academic, pedagogical and museum practices. Read now.