The Macau Museum in Lisbon: Eurocentrism and Postcolonialism in the History of Science and Technology

NTU Hist PG_4
28 Sep 2022 05.00 PM - 06.00 PM Zoom Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public

Macau, located in Southern China, is a former Portuguese colony but is often outshined by its neighbours like Hong Kong and Taiwan in the postcolonial studies of Asia. However, Macau has the most extended colonial history in Asia, and until

today, it is still significant in facilitating Sino-Portuguese cooperation. Thus, studying Macau can enrich the understanding of the colonial network in Asia. Interestingly, there is a gap in the colonial remembrance between Macau and Portugal - that today's Portuguese government denies the former colonial status of Macau. Instead, Macau was a "Chinese territory under Portuguese administration". Since the Portuguese first arrived in Macau in the 16th-century Ming dynasty, Macau's official status and sovereignty had remained ambiguous. The intertwining of the Question of Macau and the official narration of Macau's history is reflected by the Macau Scientific and Cultural Centre Museum in Lisbon.

The Macau Museum was first organised by the Portuguese Macau government in 1995 and donated to the Portuguese government in 1999 before the handover of Macau to China. The museum consisted of two permanent exhibitions about Macau's history in the 16th-17th century and Chinese art. Questioning the Portuguese Macau government's intention to build a Macau Museum in Lisbon, this research analyses how the historical exhibition reflects such a purpose. By visiting the museum in person, interviewing the museum staff and studying the museum's publications and other secondary sources, this paper argues that the exhibition's narrative adopts an extensive and Eurocentric focus on Macau's history of science in the 16th-17th century to avoid the controversial Question of Macau and to justify the Portuguese rule in Macau. From a global historical perspective, this case study of the Macau Museum's historical exhibition also discusses Eurocentrism in the global historical narration and the construction of the transnational history of science.

Phoebe Ka Laam Ng, coming from Hong Kong, is currently a fourth-semester Global History MA student at Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. With the aspiration of becoming a museum curator, her research interests lie primarily in East Asian Studies, Postcolonialism, Museology, Buddhism and Art History.