CONF: Forensics of Provenance: Colonial Translocations through the Lenses of Legal Pluralism (Universtität Münster, 8-9 Feb 2024)

There is a broad public debate on the restitution of objects with colonial or imperial provenance. However, political and legal debates often disregard the normative understanding and the legal imagination of communities of origin related to these objects. The workshop addresses this issue by providing a common conceptual and disciplinary framework for understanding the embeddedness of material culture in a plurality of legal orders and normative systems. Through interdisciplinary theoretical groundwork, conceptual reflection, and illustrative case studies, its participants fill this lacuna and suggest new research methodologies and legal remedies useful for policymakers, legal scholars, and heritage professionals.


Thursday, 8 February 2024

EViR Directors (Münster), Sebastian M. Spitra (Vienna) & João Figueiredo (Münster)
Opening of the Workshop and Welcome

9.30–10.30 | Keynote
Paul Basu (Oxford)
Pluriversal Museology and the forensis of Provenance

10.30–11.00 | Coffee break

Section 1: Constellations of Normative Knowledge
Chair: Franziska Dübgen (Münster)
Lucas Lixinski (Sydney)
Asking Better Provenance Questions? Cultural Heritage, Legal Pluralism, and the “Other”
Carsten Stahn (Leiden)
Confronting Colonial Objects. Histories, Legalities, and Access to Culture

12.30–14.00 | Lunch break

Section 2: Constructing Provenance. Historical Institutions and the Law
Chair: Benjamin Seebröker (Münster)
Eva Künkler (Hannover)
Colonial Collections and the Translocation of Objects: The Long Duration of German Debates on Ownership and Heritage
Sebastian Willert (Leipzig)
The Forensics of Colonial Archaeology: The Ottoman Antiquity Law, German Excavations Campaigns, and the Exodus of Antiquities

15.30–16.00 | Coffee break

Section 3: The Legal Pluralism of Objects
Chair: Kaveh Yazdani (Münster)
Alice Lopes Fabris (Paris/Brussels) & Caroline Borges (Recife): And What about Internal Restitutions? Legal Aspects of the Artefacts Return to the Local Communities
Diogo Machado (Sydney)
Colonial Translocations in Legal Discourses Surrounding Indigenous Cultural Objects Recovered in Criminal Proceedings in Brazil

18.00 | Dinner

Friday, 9 February 2024

9.30–10.30 | Keynote
María Julia Ochoa Jiménez (Sevilla)
A Latin American Perspective on Restitution: Legalist and Humanist Views

10.30–11.00 | Coffee break

Section 4: Narratives of Belonging
Chair: Larissa Förster (Berlin)
Tokie Laotan-Brown (Nova Gorica) & Bekeh Ukelina (Cortland, New York)
Returning Emwin Arre to the Benin Kingdom: Using Traditional Customary Laws as a Path towards Regional Restitution Policies in Nigeria
Martin Skrydstrup (Canberra/Copenhagen)
Provenience by Proxy: On the Dispute about Spirit Cave Man

12.30–14.00 | Lunch break

Section 5: Integrating Pluralism. Thinking Toward Legal Mitigation
Chair: Olaf Zenker (Halle/Saale)
Sophie Starrenburg (Leiden)
Decentring Cultural Heritage Law? The Emancipatory Potential of Particularistic Legal Universalism
Andrzej Jakubowski (Warsaw)
Rupture and Continuity: Decolonisation of International Law

15.30–16.00 | Coffee break

Section 6: Normative Knowledge and Institutions
Chair: Olaf Zenker (Halle/Saale)
Edward Tan Yu Fan (Singapore)
An Examination of Liminality at the Raffles Museum of the Straits Settlements, 1884-1939
Gracia Lwanzo Kasongo (Louvain) & Placide Mumbembele Sanger (Kinshasa)
Restitution and Knowledge Decolonization: Unpacking the Return of the Kakuungu Mask in the DR Congo
Sebastian M. Spitra & João Figueiredo
Concluding Remarks and Farewell

For more information, visit:

Universität Münster, Käte Hamburger Kolleg  “Einheit und Vielfalt im Recht”
Servatiiplatz 9, 48143 Münster