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The panel aims to discuss methodological, ethical and cosmological questions related to the restitution of visual archives held in the West to their source communities.
The repatriation of colonial objects has recently entered the public sphere in Europe, while settler societies, such as the USA and Australia, have been developing restitution protocols for a long time now, due to their proximity to the heritage stakeholders. Concomitantly, the archives of anthropologists, photographers and even missionaries are being revisited by the source communities they studied and are being reappropriated, reactivated and reauthored through different media or included in indigenous and local museums.The archive, lest we forget, is knowledge and power. Artifacts in museums and other institutions are "sites of intersecting histories" (Edwards 2001, 2) that embody both local knowledge and the epistemological, gaze and power inequalities which resulted in their collection and display in the West. Photos and film footage are special artifacts because of their indexical quality as signs that makes them both illusorily transparent and full of details which resist signification and provide new ways of thinking about and accessing the past. Some study cases indicate that visual restitution challenges the old structures of oppression and is a source of knowledge, power and healing for the heritage stakeholders as well as a catalyst for new relationships, both within communities and between these and institutions and states.
The panel wishes to discuss a range of questions related to visual restitution:
- the role of European museums and archives;
- collaborative methodologies;
- case studies of visual restitution;
- virtual restitution;
- re-assemblage of visual archives by the source communities through different media;
- other ontologies, subjectivities and histories of the visual images.