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Restitution and the ‘missing body’: South Africa and Austria in question

When Feb 26, 2020
from 05:00 PM to 06:00 PM
Where The McGrath Centre, St Catharine's College, Cambridge
Contact Name
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3rd Annual Heritage Lecture


Restitution and the ‘missing body’: South Africa and Austria in question


Prof. Ciraj Rassool

Professor of History, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town


For the 3rd Annual Heritage Lecture hosted by the Cambridge Heritage Research Centre, Professor Ciraj Rassool will discuss the history of collecting by the Austrian anthropologist Rudolf Pöch in southern Africa in the first decade of the 20th century that led to the restitution of the remains of Klaas and Trooi Pienaar in 2012. It examines the specific characteristics of this restitution process, such as how it was framed as a project of rehumanisation, how the process got stalled amidst failing diplomacy between Austria and South Africa, and also what the potential is for its resuscitation.

Finally the talk is interested to discuss the meaning of restitution for museums, for questions of memory and memorial in South Africa, especially when it is located within the framework of forensic history and its developing concern with 'missingness' and missing bodies as ways of rethinking South Africa and its contested heritage.

The Annual Heritage Lecture will be followed by a drinks reception at the McGrath Centre, St Catharine's College from 6pm to 7pm.


Restitution and the ‘missing body’: South Africa and Austria in question 

Ciraj Rassool is Professor of History at the University of the Western Cape. He has directed UWC's African Programme in Museum and Heritage Studies. Among his latest publications are The Politics of Heritage in Africa: Economies, Histories and Infrastructures (New York 2015), co-edited with Derek Peterson and Kodzo Gavua; Unsettled History: Making South African Public Pasts (Ann Arbor, 2017), written with Leslie Witz and Gary Minkley; and Missing and Missed: Subject, Politics, Memorialisation (published as Kronos: southern african histories, 44, 2018), co-edited with Nicky Rousseau and Riedwaan Moosage. He was on the boards of the District Six Museum and Iziko Museums of South Africa. He has previously chaired the Scientific Committee of the International Council of African Museums (AFRICOM), and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the study of the Physical Anthropology Collection ‘Felix von Luschan’ at the Museum of Ethnology at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany.


Admission Free. All Welcome.

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