Fossil Fuel Sponsorship and the Contested Museum: Agency, Accountability and Arts Activism
Considering the overlapping ethical concerns relating to BP’s sponsorship and the British Museum’s practices more broadly, this chapter combines an analysis of data gathered as a result of multiple FOIA requests to the British Museum with ethnographic research on the interventions carried out by campaigners targeting BP’s sponsorship. It examines the relationships between the different parties involved in BP-sponsored exhibitions at the British Museum, from the institution’s director to its sponsor, and from so-called source communities to the activists campaigning against BP.
The issues of ethics and accountability are approached in relation to the business activity of fossil fuel companies, the structures and practices of the museum, and the creative interventions of BP or not BP? with the intention of moving beyond the obvious questions of ethics in corporate social responsibility and into a wider debate that includes the role and responsibility of cultural institutions and environmental activists in a time of climate and social crisis. We analyse how an acknowledgement of the complexities of the power relations between these actors has influenced the campaign against BP’s sponsorship of the arts, shifting the narrative from a more targeted approach to one that is culturally situated and responds to concerns from other involved actors.
CitationSerafini, PS and Garrard, C, 'Fossil Fuel Sponsorship and the Contested Museum: Agency, Accountability and Arts Activism' in Museum Activism (Routledge, 2019).
Author affiliationDepartment of Media, Communication and Sociology
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