Photo of Monica Eileen Patterson

Monica Eileen Patterson

Associate Professor

Degrees:Ph.D. (University of Michigan)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 3104
Office:1314 Dunton Tower

Dr. Monica Eileen Patterson is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Assistant Director of Curatorial Studies in the Institute for the Comparative Study of Literature, Art, and Culture at Carleton University. She earned her doctorate in Anthropology and History and a certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). Prior to joining the faculty at Carleton, she was a Banting Fellow at the Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence at Concordia University, and a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa.

Patterson is co-editor of several articles and two books: Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and Anthrohistory: Unsettling Knowledge and Questioning Discipline (University of Michigan Press, 2011). Currently, she is completing a manuscript that examines the multiple and contested understandings of childhood in late-apartheid South Africa.

Her latest SSHRC-funded project, “A New, Critical Children’s Museology” identifies and develops approaches to producing exhibit content not just for or about children, but by and with children across the globe. Patterson’s research project draws together recent interventions in the fields of Childhood Studies, Curatorial Studies, and Museum Studies to ask: How would museum work change if children were to be included, not just as subjects or target audience members, but as active participants and co-creators of museum content and programming? Addressing this question will fill a gap in our knowledge by helping forge a new field she calls “Critical Children’s Museology.” 

When travel and face-to-face interactions are once again possible, Patterson will focus her efforts on developing an innovative, child-centred methodology that uses community-based, collaborative curating with children to produce and document new knowledge about children’s experiences and perspectives in contemporary South Africa.

Patterson is also a lead investigator on the SSHRC-funded Partnership Development project, “Thinking through the Museum: A Parnership Approach to Curating Difficult Knowledge in Public” which brings together international scholars, students, museum professionals, and community representatives from 20 museums, universities, and NGOs in Canada, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, and the USA. Working in 5 thematic research groups that amplify perspectives under-represented in the museum world (Critical Race Museology, Museum Queeries, Unsettling and Indigenizing Museology, National Heritage and Traumatic Memory, and Children’s Museology), the group seeks to establish new terms of engagement for learning from histories of violence and conflict. After a successful 3-year development phase, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada has awarded the Thinking Through the Museum (TTTM) research network an additional 7-year, $2.5 million dollar Partnership Grant for 2021-2028.

Pressure on museums to work for social justice in light of the Black Lives Matter, Rhodes Must Fall, and #MeToo movements, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and the COVID-19 and refugee crises, are among the motivations for TTTM’s work. Going beyond traditional academic approaches of arm’s-length criticism, TTTM collaborates across sectors to creatively respond to colonial and other oppressive legacies. The team will work within museum settings to co-produce exhibitions and design tools to challenge elite institutional knowledge systems, and beyond their walls to explore alternative heritage mobilization in festivals, grassroots archives, and site-based curating, where communities can set their own agendas.

As a scholar, curator, and activist, her work explores the intersections of memory, childhood, and racism in postcolonial Africa and beyond, and the ways in which they are represented and engaged in contemporary public spheres.

You can access Professor Patterson’s full cv and many of her publications on

Research Interests

  • Children’s Museology
  • Childhood, memory, and violence
  • Apartheid and contemporary South Africa
  • Colonization, decolonization, and comparative racisms
  • Visual culture
  • Curating
  • Museums, public history, and heritage
  • Public scholarship, community engagement, and social justice


Department of Anthropology; Department of History; Institute of African Studies; School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies; Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art, and Culture (ICSLAC)

Dr. Patterson is currently accepting highly motivated graduate students and welcomes inquiries about specific areas of supervision.


Partnership Grant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), “Thinking through the Museum: A Partnership Approach to Curating Difficult Knowledge in Public” (2021-2028).

Insight Development Grant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), “A New, Critical Children’s Museology,” (2019-2022).

Development Grant- Explore, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), “Community-based, Collaborative Curating with Children in Cape Town” (2019-2022).

Partnership Development Grant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), “Thinking through the Museum: Difficult Knowledge in Public” (2015-2018).

Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), “Democratizing history: Remembering childhood in and after apartheid South Africa (2012-2014).

Image, Text, Sound, & Technology Grant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), “Curating Difficult Knowledge” team grant (2010-2012).

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Concordia University, Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence (CEREV) and Department of History, Université de Montréal, Canada (2010-2012).

Select Publications

Edited Books

Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places, Erica Lehrer, Cynthia Milton, and Monica Eileen Patterson, eds. (Houndmills, Basingstoke Hampshire; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Anthrohistory: Unsettling Knowledge and Questioning Discipline, Edward Murphy, David William Cohen, Chandra D. Bhimull, Fernando Coronil, Monica Eileen Patterson, and Julie Skurski, eds. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011).

Guest Edited Special Issues of Journals

Themed Double Issue: “Children’s Art in Times of Crisis” (Volumes I and II). Global Studies of Childhood. Volume 11, Issues 1 and 2, edited and authored two Editorial Introductions with Hannah Dyer (in press/2021).

Book Chapters

“By and For Children: History and Healing in a Hospital Museum in KwaZulu Natal”, Curatorial Dreams: Critics Imagine Exhibitions, Erica Lehrer and Shelley Ruth Butler, eds. (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2016).

“The Ethical Murk of Using Testimony in Oral Historical Research in South Africa”, Oral History Off the Record: Toward an Ethnography of Practice. Palgrave Studies in Oral History, Anna Sheftel and Stacey Zembrzycki, eds. (New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

“Teaching Tolerance Through Objects of Hatred: The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia as Counter-Museum”, Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places, Erica Lehrer, Cynthia Milton, and Monica Eileen Patterson, eds. (UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

“Childhood, Memory, and Gap: Reflections from an Anthrohistorian on George Perec’s”W or the Memory of Childhood,Anthrohistory: Unsettling Knowledge and Questioning Discipline, Edward Murphy, David William Cohen, et al., eds. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011).

“A Prefatory Piece”, with Chandra Bhimull and Edward Murphy, Anthrohistory: Unsettling Knowledge and Questioning Discipline, Edward Murphy, David William Cohen, et al., eds. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011).

“Youth Struggle”, The Art of Truth-Telling about Authoritarian Rule, Ksenija Bilibja, Jo Ellen Fair, Cynthia Milton, and Leigh Payne, eds. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).

12 “Interventions,” Responsibility in Crisis: Knowledge Politics and Global Publics, David William Cohen and Michael D. Kennedy, eds. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004).

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

“Echoes of Experience: Encountering Children and Childhood in the Canadian History Hall,” with Rebecca Friend. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures (forthcoming).

“Toward a Critical Children’s Museology: The Anything Goes Exhibition at the National Museum in Warsaw.” Museum & Society, (forthcoming).

Beyond Window Rainbows: Collecting Children’s Culture in the COVID Crisis.” Collections. Co-authored with Rebecca Friend (2020).

Online Journal Publications

Children’s Museology and the COVID-19 Crisis,” American Alliance of Museums. (2020).

“Przez dzieci i dla dzieci: Obraz historii oraz leczenia w Muzeum Szpitala w KwaZulu-Natal [By and For Children: History and Healing in a Hospital Museum in KwaZulu Natal],” translated into Polish by Zuzanna Łopacińska-Piędel, Laboratorium muzeum. Pamięć [Museum Laboratory. Memory]. Anna Banaś Aleksandra Janus, editors, Dom Spotkań z Historią Instytucja kultury [History Meeting House Institution of Culture, publisher] 2019, pp 54-91.

“Re-curating Testimony: Toward a New Pedagogy for Learning from the Past”, with Erica Lehrer. Anthropology News. American Anthropological Association, In Focus, (September 2011).

“Memory Across Generations: The Future of ‘Never Again,’”Journal of the International Institute, vol. 10, no. 2 (Winter 2003).

“Reconciliation as a Continuing and Differentiated Process,” Journal of the International Institute, vol. 9, no. 2 (Winter 2002).

Journalistic Writing and Public Scholarship

Podcast interview by Martha Attridge Bufton: “Weeding as an anti-racist practice: A conversation with Dr. Monica Eileen Patterson” (June 12, 2021)

From erasure to recategorizing: What we should do with Dr. Seuss books,” The Conversation (March 17, 2021)

“Spring breakers import Cuban rum, cigars and racist curios,” The Conversation, 25, Feb, 2019.

“Profane Perambulations: A Public Humanities Experiment in the Parliamentary Precinct,” guest blog, FASS Newsletter, Carleton University (January 11, 2016)

Encyclopedia Entries

“Saartjie Baartman/Sarah Bartman,” “Bantu Education,” “Anton Lembede,” and “Soweto Student Uprising,” Encyclopedia of South Africa, Krista Johnson and Sean Jacobs, eds. (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Press, 2011).

Conference Report Contributions

“Addressing Inequalities and Children’s Right to Play,” in “Response to Shaking the Movers VII Report”, Children’s Rights Academic Network (Spring 2015): 33-37.

Curated Exhibits

Children’s Rights in Africa, in collaboration with students from my Advanced Topics seminar, “The History of ‘the African Child’” exhibited at the annual Institute of African Studies conference, “Human Rights and the Public Sphere”, Carleton University, Ottawa (March 4-5, 2016), curator.

Palestinian-Canadian Life Stories, online exhibit (2012-14), curatorial advisor.

Contested Childhoods in Apartheid South Africa: Linking Past and Present, Ethnographic Terminalia, 110th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Montréal (November 16-20, 2011), curator.

Apartheid and Resistance: An Exhibit in Honor of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for his visit to receive the Wallenberg Medal for Outstanding Humanitarianism. Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, University of Michigan (Oct. 10-Dec. 19, 2008), curator.

The Girl Child in South Africa, in collaboration with 15 girls from the Children’s Resource Centre, Cape Town, South Africa (October-December 2006), co-curator.

Public Humanities Projects
Walking Tour

“Profane Perambulations,” an experimental walking tour of Ottawa’s Parliamentary Precinct, speaker and co-organizer (September 26, 2016).

Film Production

“A Storyteller’s Story.” Executive Producer with Erica Lehrer for CDK Productions. Dir: Florencia Marchetti and Alejandro Yoshizawa. Authored an online “Viewer’s Guide for A Storyteller’s Story” (2012).

Audio Productions

“Talking about Tourists and Heritage that Hurts: A Conversation with Joy Sather-Wagstaff,” a 35-minute interview with Sather-Wagstaff, keynote speaker for Concordia’s Annual Lecture in Public History (Dec. 1, 2011).

“Using Objects of Intolerance to Teach Tolerance: An Interview with David Pilgrim, founding director of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in Big Rapids, Michigan,” in collaboration with Caroline Kunzle. 15-minute broadcast on CKUT 90.3 FM as part of the “Radio Works!” series of the Life Stories Montréal Oral History Project (Aired March 28, 2011).

Recent Invited Talks and Keynotes

“Curating Difficult Knowledge,” invited talk, Curatorial Practice Workshop, The Palestinian Museum, June 23, 2021.

“Toward a Critical Children’s Museology: Some Recent Examples from Warsaw,” keynote for the 3rd Annual Symposium, “The Intersections of Youth and Museums: How we teach the Past,” Institute for Child and Youth Studies, University of Lethbridge and the Galt Museum and Archives, Lethbridge, Alberta (April 8, 2019).

“Critical Curating in Complex Times,” Ethnographic Museum of Krakow, Poland (December 8, 2018).

“Toward a New Critical Children’s Museology,” public talk, Museum Lab speaker series, Warsaw, Poland (December 7, 2018).

“Revealing the Past,” Luncheon address. 23rd Annual Underhill Graduate Student Colloquium, History Department, Carleton University (March 9, 2017).

“Curating Difficult Knowledge with Children,” Museum Openings: Caring for Difficult Knowledge Within and Beyond the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Invitational Workshop, University of Winnipeg (Sept 19-21, 2014).

“From Golliwogs to Gangstas: Historicizing Racial Caricatures of African Americans,” in Panel titled “Little Black Sambos, Cigar Store Indians…and Lucky Jews with Coins? Minorities, Kitsch, and Stereotypes on Both Sides of the Atlantic,” 23rd Annual Jewish Culture Festival, Krakow, Poland (July 2, 2013).

“Toward a Public History of Childhood in South Africa,” Keynote Address. College of Arts and Humanities 50th Anniversary Celebration, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida (March 19, 2013).

“Unsettling the Dominant Myths of Healing: The Power of ‘Good Stories’ in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission” Culture and Mental Health Research Unit Meetings, Division of Social and Cultural Psychiatry, McGill University, Montréal (February 20, 2013).

Conferences and Colloquia Organized

Institute of African Studies Brown Bag Speaker Series. Organized and hosted six visiting speakers for the monthly brown bag talks: Duncan Scott, Wangui Kimari, Jenny Doubt, Yolanda Covington-Ward, David Black, and Kamari Clark. (August 2016- April 2017).

“Decolonizing Curatorial Pedagogies”, a workshop for SSHRC PDG project “Thinking through the Museum: Difficult Knowledge in Public,” Carleton University (April 15-19, 2016).

“Collaboration – Exhibition – Research” Work Group, Convenor, 9th Annual Hemispheric Institute Encuentro, Montréal, Canada (June 21-28, 2014).

“Children’s Art from the Past and Present: An Interdisciplinary Workshop”, Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence (CEREV), Concordia University (April 11, 2014).

“Plundered Cultures, Stolen Heritage”, International Conference, Concordia University (October 7-9, 2013).

“Reimagining the Transnational in African Studies”, Montréal African Studies Working Group Inaugural Conference, McGill and Concordia Universities. (April 28-May 1, 2013).



-CURA 5000: “Curatorial Studies Proseminar: Introduction to Curatorial Studies”


-CHST 1000: “Introduction to Child Studies: Childhoods in the Global Context”
-CHST 4003/AFRI 4003/HIST 4915: “History of ‘the African Child’” Advanced Topics Seminar
-CHST 3004: “Practicum in Community Settings”

-CHST 3009: “Service-Learning in Community Settings”
-CHST 3101:  “Research Seminar”

Doctoral Supervision

Rebecca Friend, “Conceptualizing Children, Childhood and Youth in Canada’s Museums,” recipient of the Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, (PhD, Public History, 2021-present)

Casey Gray, “Toward a renewed curatorial ethic: the circulation and agency of human remains within critical heritage discourse and museum practice,” (PhD, Cultural Mediations, co-supervising with Jerzy Elzanowski, 2019-present)

Ivonne Marais, “Colonial Rhizomes: The Impact of Colonial Practices in Africa on European Museums,” (PhD, Cultural Mediations, 2019-present)

Pansee Abou Elatta, “(How) Do Communities Represent Themselves? A study of community-based representational processes within and outside cultural institutions,” (PhD, Cultural Mediations, co-supervising with Ming Tiampo, 2017-present)

Vivianna Boilès-Léonard, “Anti-Apartheid commemoration: The politics of memory and heritage value in South Africa” (PhD, Anthropology, ongoing).

Lameck Zingano, “Contested histories: The politics of memory in postcolonial Zimbabwe” (PhD, Anthropology, ongoing).

Master of Arts Supervision

Selam Abebe, “Politics will do nothing for you”: Explorations of Political Identity Formation in the Ethiopian Canadian Diaspora,” (MA in Migration and Diaspora Studies, 2021-present)

Rebecca Friend, “Hollow Castings: Commemorations and Canadian Childhood,” MRE (MA, Public History, 2018-2020)

Barbara Reilly, “Monumental meaning-making: Interpreting gravestones in Ontario’s rural cemeteries” (MA, Anthropology, September 2016).

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Supervision

Zoe Musafiri, “Color in the Classroom: Black Youth’s Experiences of Race-based Discrimination” (April 2018-April 2019)

Dayna Goldfarb, “Understanding Children’s Perspectives on the Definitions and Importance of Play” (April 2018-April 2019)

Stacie Kerr, “Electronic vs. Printed Text – Exploring Media Platforms’ Differing Effects on Elementary School Students’ Reading Comprehension” (co-supervisor with Carol Rowan, April 2016-April 2017)

Selam Abebe, “‘What are You?’:  An In-depth look at Mixed Race Childhood Experiences in Canada”, awarded the 2016 Provost Scholar Award for outstanding academic achievement (August 2016).

 Betül Alaca, “Understanding Communities through the Eyes and Voices of Children,” awarded the Carleton University Medal in Arts for her thesis (April 2015).