Empathy as Habit of Mind

One of the first results for a Google image search for “empathy.” I liked the play between overlapping minds and the idea of a habit of mind.

In 2014, in response to AAM’s newly released diversity and inclusion policy, the Incluseum featured guest posts (Part 1, Part 2) from Gretchen Jennings, a museum consultant and founder of the Empathetic Museum. In both posts, Jennings describes empathy as a “consistent quality, a state of being, a habit of mind”. Translated to a museum, empathy as a habit of mind is:

“A persistent orientation to its community, such that whatever is happening in the community (whether or not it is related to museum type or collection) is of interest (and is considered to be legitimately of interest) to the institution and is taken into consideration in its planning and activities.”

While Fusco notes that Couple in a Cage “became a pretext for internal discussions about the extent of self-criticism those museums could openly be engaged in” (159), I’m curious about what motivated them to show Couple in a Cage in the first place. Was it reactive to what was happening in the community, a desire to be aligned with contemporary performance art, a recognition of the injustices of anthropology and colonialism, some combination, or something else entirely?

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