Symposia

[Raghavi Viswanath and Jessica Wiseman are PhD candidates at the European University Institute (EUI)] In the opening chapter of his book ‘Confronting Colonial Objects: Histories, Legalities, and Access to Culture’, Carsten Stahn promises to “present both the different facets of colonial violence and their enduring effects, and possible avenues to renew relations” (page 8). In the first six chapters of his...

[João Figueiredo is a research associate at the Käte Hamburger kolleg “Legal Unity and Pluralism” of the University of Münster, Germany. He researches Portuguese colonialism in Angola, using historical anthropology and legal history to shed new light on aspects of the history of the slave trade, abolitionism, and the origins of systemic racism.] Individual examples prove nothing. Still, a single case...

[Gracia Lwanzo Kasongo is a PhD researcher at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCLouvain) in Belgium and a member of the Institute of Political Science Louvain-Europe (ISPOLE). She is a legal scholar and political scientist and former fellow of the American Bar Association (ABA)] 1. Introduction  In the colonialist moves to collect human remains, and the desire to demonstrate grandeur and strength,...

[Marie-Sophie de Clippele is Assistant Professor in Law at UC Louvain Saint-Louis – Bruxelles] The centrality of the human body as site of colonial violence, and its implication for contemporary restitution policies, are discussed in Chapter 5 of Confronting Colonial Objects. The book shows that human remains and natural history objects are more than objects or human biological material. It draws on the interplay between human...

[Alessandro Chechi is Senior lecturer at the University of Geneva, the Catholic University of Lille, and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights] The question of returning colonial objects that were displaced during the colonial era by European invaders is by no means a new one. Already in 1978, the then UNESCO Director-General, Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, issued a ‘Plea for the Return of an Irreplaceable...

[Sarah Imani, LL.M. (NYU), is a German qualified lawyer and legal advisor at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCH) in Berlin. She is responsible for its work on German and European colonial crimes, reparations and restitution as well as critical and decolonial perspectives on the law.] Addressing colonial injustices has not been conceived as a matter of the law for a long time, let...

[Sebastian Willert is a Research Associate at the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow in Leipzig and Part-time Lecturer at NYU Berlin]. A central theme of Confronting Colonial Objects is law’s complicity in cultural takings and colonial violence. Carsten Stahn’s book shows how colonial law transformed conceptions of property and culture and facilitated cultural extractions. It argues that law...

[Oscar Genaro Macias Betancourt is the Former Director of Restitutions at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a Specialist in International Law on Cultural Property.] "Confronting Colonial Objects" is a timely contribution to the debate on restitution. It explores the multiple layers surrounding the issue of relocating cultural objects to their place or people of origin. The study by Carsten Stahn tackles restitution from a multidisciplinary perspective...

[Sebastian M. Spitra is postdoctoral researcher at the Department for Legal and Constitutional History of the University of Vienna. He is recipient of the Award of German Legal History Association 2022 for his book Die Verwaltung von Kultur im Völkerrecht. Eine postkoloniale Geschichte (Administering Culture in International Law. A Postcolonial Narrative)] Confronting Colonial Objects by Carsten Stahn is the most comprehensive monograph addressing...

[Alonso Gurmendi Dunkelberg is Lecturer in International Relations at King’s College London] Carsten Stahn’s Confronting Colonial Objects: Histories, Legalities, and Access to Culture is a fantastic volume that deserves wide readership. International law’s material turn has been the less discussed of all the recent turns – the historical turn, the linguistic turn, etc. The book is therefore an innovative and refreshing take on international law and, as...

[Carsten Stahn is Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice at Leiden University and Queen’s University Belfast] The debate on restitution and return of stolen or looted cultural objects is as old as humanity. In contrast to return of Nazi-looted art, governed inter alia by the Washington Principles, cultural takings in the colonial era have received limited structural attention. The debate has been dominated by...

The restitution and return of colonial objects is one of the most important sites of debate over engagement with the colonial past. It forms an integral part of claims of reparation for colonial injustice, which have been voiced in the UN for decades (e.g., Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow’s famous Plea for the Return of Irreplaceable Cultural Heritage to Those Who Created It)....