AAM Session Accepted : Empathy & Evil: Moving Beyond ‘Good-guy/Bad-guy’ Narratives

Seth Frankel is leading a panel at the May, 2016 AAM Conference in Washington DC. The session title is Empathy & Evil: Moving Beyond ‘Good-guy/Bad-guy’ Narratives. Seth will be presenting with colleagues Mark Katrikh (Museum of Tolerance, CA), Dr. Adam Nilsen (Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, CA) and Sarah Pharaon (International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, NYC). Over 440 proposals were received for the conference. We’re honored to have been selected.

The session will appeal to museum educators, planners, curators, developers and designers.


Museums are tasked with unpacking complex social narratives in order to accurately document conflict and actively further public understanding. Even seemingly benign narratives are often told through the eyes of an oversimplified “good guy” and “bad guy.” This reduction is rarely accurate and may, in fact, be harmful: victims get presented as powerless and victimizers as non-human monsters.

Through example exhibitions, programs, and research, panelists and participants will explore theories and approaches for pushing beyond such one-dimensional portrayals of difficult history and contemporary conflict, with the goal of encouraging audiences to engage with social complexity and more fully envision their role as agents in social progress.