EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 26 Okt 2022 | 17:00–18:30

Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)Possession and the Politics of Knowledge

Banu Karaca (BEYONDREST / Senior Fellow FTS), Chair: Hanan Toukan (Bard College Berlin / EUME Fellow 2019-23)

Online event via ZOOM

This talk will present some of the conceptual groundwork of the ERC funded project Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)Possession and the Politics of Knowledge. On the backdrop of ongoing debates to decolonialize museums, this research project asks if the return of looted art can be regarded as a closure of historical wounds. It probes the focus on restitution that inadvertently casts dispossessed art in terms of contested property. Instead, it explores what kind of loss dispossessed art engenders, and how this loss has shaped the knowledge production on heritage. Geographically speaking, it focuses on the interlocution between Western Europe, the Near and Middle East, and North Africa, mapping relationships between people and “things” that have largely been left out of current debates. The project starts in the mid-19th century, which witnessed the rise of the museum in its modern form as well as violence unleashed by imperial and colonial projects and dispossession. Innumerable objects made their way into international collections, categorized mostly as “Islamic art,” or as the “universal heritage of humankind” that nonetheless symbolically and proprietarily belongs to the “West.” Taking restitution not as an endpoint but as the point of departure for its inquiry, Beyond Restitution tackles dispossession not as a loss to be mended but a means to transform knowledge through inquiries into absence. 


Banu Karaca is a Senior Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien. She works at the intersection of political anthropology and critical theory, art, aesthetics, and cultural policy, museum and feminist memory studies. She holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center, The City University of New York. She has published on freedom of expression in the arts, the visualization of gendered memories of war and political violence, visual literacy, restitution, and more recently on the politics of love. She is the author of The National Frame: Art and State Violence in Turkey and Germany (Fordham University Press, 2021), and co-editor of Women Mobilizing Memory (Columbia University Press, 2019). In 2011, she co-founded Siyah Bant, a research platform that documents censorship in the arts in Turkey. Banu has been awarded a Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council for the project “Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)Possession and the Politics of Knowledge (BEYONDREST).” As part of BEYONDREST, she continues her research on how dispossession and loss have shaped the scholarly and legal knowledge production on art in Turkey and beyond.

Hanan Toukan is Professor of Middle East Studies at Bard College Berlin. Her teaching, research and writings sit at the intersection of international politics, Middle East politics, postcolonial and de-colonial studies, visual cultures, and cultural studies and are concerned with questions of identity formation, memory politics, postcolonial subjectivities, race and racialization, knowledge production, institutional politics and contemporary artistic and cultural practices. Prior to joining Bard College Berlin, Hanan was Visiting Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at Brown University and Visiting Professor of Cultural Studies of the Middle East at Bamberg University. She is the author of The Politics of Art: Dissent and Cultural Diplomacy in Palestine Lebanon and Jordan (Stanford University Press, 2021).

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