This article explores the role played by the Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration (MHI) in the broader political debates relating to collective memories of immigration in France. In particular, the discussion focuses on the ways in which the MHI, as both a national institution and a civil society network, engages with diverse publics from Paris, the Ile-de-France banlieues (suburbs) and other French regions which have historically been the site of significant migrant settlement. The analysis will therefore explore the manner in which the museum’s national project of remembering immigration is inscribed in localised urban or sub-urban contexts. The main question underpinning the article’s discussion is as follows: how and to what extent is a ‘dialogic’ and ‘polyvocal’ approach to the history of immigration in France reflected in the networks and partnerships which the institution fosters with diverse and urban populations? After providing a brief historical introduction to how the MHI came to be established, the article then focuses on one of the ways in which the MHI has recently sought to seek greater visibility as a cultural institution in the Parisian museological landscape via a high-profile publicity campaign in the summer of 2013. The third and main part of the article discusses the different ways in which the MHI seeks to move beyond a centre-margin paradigm within its own museological practice, whilst at the same time remaining constrained by the very centre-margin paradigm it otherwise seeks to displace. This part of the article will be concerned with the ways in which, in some respects, we can see the MHI as a dialogic museum whilst in other respects, it appears to remain wedded to an older model of the museum which could be regarded ‘as a space that is inscribed with dominant discursive meaning’ (Message 2006: 18).
- Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration