Towards a "New Cultural World Order"? Decolonization and the restitution of cultural property, ca. 1970-1990
Associated PhD project
The dissertation project examines the debates on the possible restitution of cultural objects to their countries of origin as part of decolonization and North-South relations between the late 1960s and 1980s.
Following independence, numerous states in Africa and Asia demanded the return of art and cultural objects that had been translocated to the countries of the Global North during the colonial era. From the 1970s onwards, the issue of restitution was discussed at the United Nations and UNESCO with reference to the concept of a "new cultural world order". At the same time, bilateral negotiations took place on the restitution of individual objects from mostly ethnological museum collections. Demands by countries of the Global South were not only directed against the last Europe’s last colonial powers in Europe, but also affected the Federal Republic and the GDR. Both German states had large stocks of non-European art and cultural assets as a result of earlier collecting activities in the colonies and within colonial networks. Accordingly, stakeholders on both sides of the border were intensively engaged with the question of restitution, albeit under different conditions.
The project examines the emergence and development of the debate on postcolonial cultural restitution at the intersections of international organisations, bilateral negotiations, foreign and national cultural policy and museums. In doing so, it seeks to demonstrate to what extent different negotiating spaces and actors as well as interpretations of the colonial past and political allegiances influenced attitudes toward restitution.
Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam
Am Neuen Markt 1
E-Mail: pupeter [at] zzf-potsdam.de