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Our panel seeks to bring together a diverse group of researchers and experts interested in the issue of restitution of cultural property and human remains in relation with African colonial contexts with the Belgian possessions as case study. Restitution of cultural property and human remains in relation with African colonial contexts: the case of the Belgian possessions will be held exclusively in French.
The last few years have witnessed a resurgence of the debate on the restitution of cultural property and human remains in relation with African (de)colonial contexts. In many countries, postcolonial and decolonial dialogues are engaged (Belgium, UK, Germany, France) as a broad issue of negotiation of the colonial past.
This panel aims to discuss the issue of restitution of cultural property and human remains illegally taken by the kingdom of Belgium from its former African possessions, consisting of the former Belgian Congo and the Rwanda and Burundi colonial territories. As far as the Belgium is concerned, the Chamber of Representatives approved in July 2020 the establishment of the Special Commission with the task of "conducting research on the Belgian colonial past in Congo (1885-1960), Rwanda and Burundi (1919-1962).
If there is a consensus on the principle of restitution of cultural goods and artefacts illegally taken abroad in colonial contexts, the effective implementation of such restitution raises a series of problematics and challenges. Among others, legal questions on the protection of cultural property, the identification and localization of concerned goods and collections disseminated between public, private or individuals' entities, the existence or not of appropriate conservative infrastructures and qualified personnel in the countries of origin, the political perceptions, and debates on decolonization of knowledges…. Our panel seeks to engage a debate on such a complex issue and, using an interdisciplinary approach associating different disciplines, to pave a way forward for a fair and lasting settlement of the said issue.