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Department of Classical Studies pres.

Repatriation and Restitution of Cultural Heritage

Museums, Universities, and the Ethics of Community Engagement

Department of Classical Studies
DEI Committee

Roundtable:
Repatriation and Restitution of Cultural Heritage: Museums, Universities, and the Ethics of Community Engagement

October 25, 2:30-3:30PM
Classics Library

This roundtable was prompted by similar events in US universities (e.g. Brown University), after the publication of the Savoy report in November 2018 (The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage: Towards a New Relational Ethics.) The report, which we attach to this announcement, defines Restitution (“What restitution means”) and outlines its implications beyond questions of legitimate ownership which often dominate discussions on the topic.
From the report (page 29):

“Restitutions open up a profound reflection on history, memories, and the colonial past, concerning the history as well as the formation and development of Western museum collections. But just as importantly the question of restitution also bears on the question of the different interpretations or conceptions of cultural heritage, of the museum, and their various modalities of the presentation of objects as well as their circulation and, in the end, the nature and quality of relations between people and nation.”

According to the report, stolen and looted object constitute a “diaspora” and additional violence is inscribed onto the objects themselves as they are altered, reshaped, varnished, cleaned, etc. How are such objects to be “restituted” and “repatriated”, the report asks? (page 30). And why seek to repatriate at all? Does repatriation foster community engagement? What are the power dynamics among the multiple stakeholders in such engagements?

The report raises questions that resonate beyond African Art and with this event we hope to raise similar questions as they pertain to our institutional and disciplinary practices.

The roundtable brings together specialists from different fields:

Brendan Haug, Assistant Professor, Classical Studies and Archivist of the UM Papyrology Collection
Shelley Perlove, Professor Emerita, History of Art
Ray Silverman, Professor History of Art, DAAS, Museum Studies
Lisa C. Young, Lecturer IV, Anthropology, Research Affiliate Museum of Anthropology
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