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Accepted Paper:

Curating and (De)Museifying Collections of Physical Anthropology The Display and/ or the Restitution of San and Khoi Khoi Human Remains from French and South African Museums  
Damiana Otoiu (SNSPA, Bucharest)

Paper short abstract:

Based on about 36 months of anthropological fieldwork conducted in France and South Africa, I will
 address the manner in which questions of ownership and representation have been approached by French and South African (post)colonial museums with regard to collections of physical anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

In April 1996, the South African National Gallery organized the exhibition entitled "Miscast. Negotiating Khoisan History and Material Culture", curated by artist Pippa
 Skotnes. By exposing anthropometric photographs, plaster casts, and archival 
documents, the curator
 advanced the idea of museum collections as revealing colonial practices and political 
uses of anthropology. The exhibition was followed by a series of symposia and public
 fora, where members of the communities 
represented in the exhibition had been invited. 
The exhibition had generated a huge scientific, artistic (and political)
controversy on the representation of indigenous groups in museums and on the ownership of San and Khoi Khoi human remains.

At the same time, the representatives of different indigenous South African groups, such as the Griqua National Conference, were formulating claims against European museums. Their first international claim concerned the repatriation of Sarah Baartman's remains, a Khoisan woman whose skeleton was displayed at Musée de l'Homme in Paris until the 1970s.

Three decades after this first claim, when le Musée de l'Homme re-opened (in 2015), its curators decided to make extensive use of the physical anthropological collections and to display 19th-century plaster casts as a way of "celebrating human diversity". But le Musée de l'Homme (like many other European museums) was (and continues to be) faced with repatriation requests for certain collections, including those of physical anthropology. How do museum curators in both countries answer questions such as: who has the right to expose physical anthropology specimens (human remains, anthropometric photographs, plaster
casts) and why?

Panel P179
Curating the (post)colonial in Europe and beyond
  Session 1 Wednesday 22 July, 2020, -