Social Inclusion and Museums: Understanding ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ in the Context of Japanese Society and Visually Impaired People
thesisposted on 30.03.2012, 09:44 authored by Yuka Shimamura-Willcocks
This thesis explores museums’ social role in supporting an inclusive society, the nature of ‘difference’ and relationships between ‘self’ and ‘other’ in the context of Japanese society and disabled people. My research question is: can museums and galleries contribute to the creation of an inclusive society, enhancing the understanding of difference as well as of self and other? In particular, it considers the relationship between disabled people and non-disabled people with a special interest in visually impaired people. My thesis’s objectives are to think disability sociologically, to investigate the mechanism of exclusion and to develop socio-cultural learning in museums as an inclusion practice. The methodology of this thesis is Symbolic Interactionism. Fieldwork was conducted in Japan examining attitudes towards people with ‘difference’. Qualitative fieldwork research was conducted combining two methods: a ‘single-designs’ case study and a questionnaire given to participants at gallery workshops, in which sighted and visually impaired people viewed artworks together. Collected data was analysed with theories of communication, Symbolic Interactionism and socio-cultural learning. The preliminary fieldwork was conducted using the method of semi-structured interviews with key people working in art museums and art organisations (including blind people) aiming to increase knowledge about Japanese museums and disabled (visually impaired) users. Fieldwork results indicated that participants learned ‘we are all the same and different’, and demonstrated changes to their attitude. This thesis contributes to the development of a discourse about disability, exclusion/inclusion, museum and ‘self’ and ‘other’. It brings content from Museum Studies, Disability Studies and Sociology together in the museum and disability contexts. The broad aim of my thesis is to contribute to an improvement in social well-being, understanding, and celebration of difference.