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Carsten Wergin and Christiane Brosius successful in the first round of "HeiCONNECT 2020"

17. Apr. 2020

The project "Provenance and Repatriation: Challenges and Potentials," led by PD Dr. Carsten Wergin, is among the first to receive funding from Heidelberg University’s new Flagship Initiative "Transforming Cultural Heritage." Hosted at the Professorship of Visual and Media Anthropology at the HCTS, it will examine the restitution of artefacts and repatriation of human remains as transcultural processes of connectivity and healing.  


Provenance and repatriation are inherently transdisciplinary and transcultural themes. They are concerned with cultural, socio-political and juridical problems. The project "Provenance and Repatriation: Challenges and Potentials" will draw on the expertise of members of both the University’s Field of Focus 3 and Field of Focus 4 under the leadership of Principal Investigator PD Dr. Carsten Wergin, HCTS member and associate professor of Anthropology at Heidelberg University, and the HCTS professor of Visual and Media Anthropology Dr. Christiane Brosius. Case studies include the repatriation of human remains and restitution of cultural artefacts from Germany to Australia. The project will address the hopes and conflicts attached to these repatriations and will ask to what extend the latter can contribute to the emergence of a newly "shared heritage."

In addition to questions of responsibility and reparation, the initiative will look at how provenance and repatriation projects stimulate profound changes among the diverse parties involved. Ethnographic museums, for instance, become spaces of critical, political and social engagement. The communities to which artefacts and human remains are returned to seek to rebuild the traditions suppressed during colonialism, reinstating for younger generations a pride in their local culture and identity. What are the potentials of such "shared stewardship" - as Director of the GRASSI Museum Léontine Meijer-van Mensch described it at an event in Leipzig - not only for the Indigenous groups but also for those ethnographic collections that have the chance to redefine their colonial possessions and initiate new processes of transcultural exchange?

The Flagship Initiative "Transforming Cultural Heritage" is an 18-month project promoted in the context of Heidelberg University's Excellence Strategy. It aims at consistently combining the approaches and disciplines of the humanities with those of the economic, social, empirical-behavioural, and legal sciences in order to facilitate innovative research processes in the field of cultural heritage. Among the goals of the initiative is the development of a long-term strategy for the implementation of a new research area in Critical Heritage Studies, which will start off this summer term with the MATS seminar "Exploring Immaterial Heritage in Times of COVID-19."

PD Dr. Carsten Wergin (PI) is associate professor of Anthropology at Heidelberg University. From 2014 to 2019, he led the project "The Transcultural Heritage of Northwest Australia: Dynamics and Resistance" at the HCTS. His research is located at the intersections of heritage, culture, and ecology.

Prof. Dr. Christiane Brosius holds the chair for Visual and Media Anthropology at the HCTS. Her current research focuses on heritage and urban resources, with a particular focus on in/tangible cultural heritage and crisis in the Kathmandu valley, Nepal.



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  • Figure 1: Return of ancestral remains, Australian Embassy Berlin 2019, (c) Carsten Wergin

  • Figure 2: Smoking Ceremony, GRASSI Museum Leipzig 2019, (c) Carsten Wergin