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Language and Anti-Oppression Work

This guide explains the language Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) uses in our anti-oppression work, which is developing through Delivering Change.


In Delivering Change, an anti-oppression programme for museums and communities, we use language that acknowledges systemic exclusion. It’s important that patterns of exclusion are highlighted and not seen as a coincidence.   

In Delivering Change we acknowledge the multiple oppressions that people face, rather than use segregating language. 



Anti-Oppression work empowers everyone by shifting the dynamic from power over to power with. It’s about (re)adopting ways of sharing power and resources. This looks different for different communities. And that’s OK! 

Explanation developed from work MGS has undertaken with Ikake Rising. Their illustrated description of anti-oppression gives examples of the different forms this work could take.

Systemic Exclusion

We define systemic exclusion as when groups of people are intentionally disadvantaged by economic, social, political, and cultural systems based on their identity while advantaging members of the dominant group. Intentionally disadvantaged identities could be gender, race, class, sexual orientation, language, disability, or others. 

Participatory Practice

Participatory practice is about museums operating in an open and democratic way. It occurs when museums recognise the lived experience of communities of interest and individuals as expertise that is equal to professional museum expertise. They therefore actively seek to share decision making with their users and communities. It is about an ongoing process of shared practice and encompasses co-curation, co-design, co-production, and collaboration. 

Sustainable Co-Production

Sustainable co-production takes a long-term perspective – it seeks to embed co-production practice within your organisation’s internal infrastructure. Sustainable co-production manages its human, natural, and financial capital to meet current needs while ensuring that adequate resources are available for future generations. It also places a premium on fostering and enhancing trust as a critical element in long-term engagement and effective governance. 

Human Rights Based Approach

A human rights-based approach is: 

  1. A framework for public service and public participation 
  2. based on international human rights standards 
  3. that seeks to promote and protect human rights. 

Explanation taken from: McGhie, H.A. (2020). Museums and Human Rights: human rights as a basis for public service. Curating Tomorrow, UK