TAPAS/Thinking About the PASt and Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality (CARAM) are proud to announce their conference on the restitution of colonial collections in Europe, taking place on December 2 and 3, 2019 in the Monnikenzaal of the Saint Peter’s Abbey in Ghent (Sint-Pietersplein 9, 9000 Ghent).
Following the recent repatriation of human remains from Germany to the Namibian and Australian governments and French president Emmanuel Macron’s statement that the return of African objects in French museums is a ‘priority’, claims for the restitution of colonial acquisitions have gained momentum in Europe. Various social and cultural groups as well as states demand the return of human remains, archives and cultural objects in colonial collections to which they claim cultural, religious, historical or biological affinity. Yet many museums, collectors and governments continue to wrestle with restitution demands, often lacking a clear vision on the best way forward or resorting to defensive discourses. These include a legalist reasoning in which states and ethnographic museums today cannot be held accountable for crimes committed so long ago, referring to the high scientific or market value of the acquired objects or following a statist reasoning in which only claims by ‘nation states’ are valued as legitimate. This conference wants to particularly explore such motivations and the implicit philosophical convictions that underpin many restitution-claims and responses to them.