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Colonised Objects and Bodies in Europe: New challenges and new perspectives on the Decolonisation of Cultural Heritage, 24-25 June 2022

24 June 2022

The Coimbra Group is delighted to announce the conference “Colonised Objects and Bodies in Europe: New challenges and new perspectives on the Decolonisation of Cultural Heritage”, to be held at the University of Würzburg (Germany) on 24 and 25 June 2022.

A joint initiative of the Coimbra Group Working Groups on Heritage and Development Cooperation, this event is being organised under the leadership of Jeremy Upton, Director of Library and University Collections at the University of Edinburgh and Chair of the Coimbra Group Working Group on Heritage, Giuliana Tomasella, Director of the University Museums Centre at the University of Padova, and Julien Bobineau, Assistant Professor in French and Francophone Literature at the Institute for Modern Languages of the University of Würzburg and Chair of the Coimbra Group Working Group on Development Cooperation.

In both the ex-colonial and the ex-colonised worlds, visions of Africa and its colonial past have become incarcerated in stereotypes, dichotomies, and historical misrepresentation. Especially in European Cultural Heritage, we see a mixture of these ambivalent subjects and habits of lack of self-searching.

But the restitution debate in Europe on cultural objects from Africa (Sarr/Savoy 2018) and the Black Lives Matter movement, which also reached Europe in 2020, have set the course for a questioning of the colonial essence of Cultural Heritage.

Recent questions about history politics, cultural memory and cultural traditions are now also – and above all – debated in public. Museums, Cultural Heritage institutions, Universities with their collections and their self-image are now more than ever in the spotlight of the dynamics of a global debate.

In the course of the conference, we aim to discuss the following questions:

– How can Cultural Heritage be decolonised in science, society, politics, and institutions to avoid ideological extremism?

– Are there national differences and similarities in Europe?

– Who are the actors and networks involved in defending the status quo or in decolonising Cultural Heritage?

– What are the direct and indirect consequences of unreflective and stereotypical Cultural Heritage in Europe?

– How can the ‘decolonisation of Cultural Heritage’ contribute to the field of development cooperation with the African continent?

The conference will be organised around four sessions:

1. Historical misrepresentation: The concealment of colonial history in Cultural Heritage

2. The survival of stereotypes: Reflections on the Imaginary within Cultural Heritage

3. University’s collections: Current states and new approaches

4. European Museums: Restitution and new displays

The programme and other relevant information will be available soon.

The conference web page is available here.