Travelling bones: understanding the process of repatriation

Morton, S (2017) Travelling bones: understanding the process of repatriation. In: Nordic Geographers Meeting: Geographies of Inequalities, 18 - 21 June 2017, University of Stockholm, Sweden.

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The demands of Indigenous peoples for the return of the remains of their ancestors held by museums around the world has led to the global movement of human remains as they are repatriated to their country of origin. However the framing of repatriation as a post-colonial act that will have therapeutic benefits risks side-lining the competing, conflicting and often confronting meanings of the process. Through mapping the materialities of the ancestral remains repatriated to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii by the Royal College of Surgeons of England the political symbolism of the remains and their role in a complex assemblage of memories, representations and embodied performance can be explored. Through this approach a more nuanced understanding of the deathscapes created by the return of ancestral remains can be gained, and the intersection of repatriated remains with issues related to land rights, loss of traditional culture, socio-economic issues and concepts of sovereignty is revealed. The return of ancestral remains can be healing for communities but it is also a time consuming process that creates a spiritual and financial burden. It is not only a confronting remainder of a painful history of loss, but also highlights continuing inequalities and lack of power to protect the dead. Rather than a simple therapeutic post-colonial act it is therefore argued that repatriation should be understood as part of a longer-term process of decolonisation that needs to be better understood if the ‘just approach’ to repatriation that Hemming and Wilson (2010) advocate for is to be developed.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2018 14:14
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:50
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