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VIDEO – COLLOQUE Le Retour de la restitution, 12 juin 2019 / SESSION 2 Musées, objets et diasporas: propriétés, appropriations

COLLOQUE LE RETOUR DE LA RESTITUTION, tenu en Sorbonne le 12 juin 2019

programme complet ici 

Session  2 :  Musées, objets et diasporas: propriétés, appropriations

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Modération: Saskia COUSIN (Paris Descartes-Canthel) et Marie SALAUN (Paris Descartes- Canthel).

Intervenants : Blandine MARCÉ (Ecole du Louvre, Consultante en conservation des collections) : « La peur du “précédent” : que nous disent les craintes des conservateurs sur la restitution de collections»; Joanes LOUIS (avocat au barreau de Paris) : « La valorisation financière des œuvres d’art africaines avant leur retour définitif » ; Rachele SHAMOUNI (U. Paris Descartes) & Jacob Buena (U. Cergy Pontoise) : « Quai Branly : comment s’approprier et parler des objets »




VIDEO – COLLOQUE Le Retour de la restitution 12 juin 2019 / SESSION 1 Géopolitique de la restitution

COLLOQUE LE RETOUR DE LA RESTITUTION, tenu en Sorbonne le 12 juin 2019

programme complet ici 

Accueil et session 1 Géopolitique de la restitution

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Mot d’accueil : Mot d’accueil de Marie Salaun (directrice du Canthel) et Didier Nativel (directeur du Cessma) 

Introduction : Alexandra Galitzine (Inalco/Cessma) et Saskia Cousin (U. Paris Descartes/Canthel) : « Le retour de la restitution : l’entrée par les acteurs »

Modération: Dominique MALAQUAIS (CNRS-Imaf) et Yala KISUKIDI (U. Paris 8 Vincennes -LLCP)

Intervenants: Louis Georges TIN (premier ministre de l’État de la Diaspora à l’Union Africaine) : « Ce que restituer veut dire »; Germain LOUMPET (Archéologue et anthropologue) : « Géopolitiques du patrimoine et temporalités de la restitution »; Alexandra GALITZINE (Cessma/Inalco) : « Géopolitiques du patrimoine et temporalités de la restitution »; Philippe CHARLIER (directeur de la recherche du Musée du Quai Branly) : « Une archéologie des sources, des origines, des cheminements (palais royaux d’Abomey) »; ] Alain GODONOU (responsable des musées à l’ANPT – Agence nationale de promotion des patrimoines et du tourisme) : « Restitution et récit national : le cas Béninois »


(en français plus bas, in french below.)

The Return of Restitution- Mobilizations, Imaginaries, (Re)appropriations

Call for Submissions thematic issue coordinated by Saskia Cousin (CESSMA, Université de Paris),Anne Doquet (IMAF, IRD) & Alexandra Galitzine-Loumpet (CESSMA)

Debates surrounding the restitution of cultural property are as old as the latter’s theft. On the African continent, some demands for restitution were publicized in the media at the time of Independence and on the occasion of associated Pan-African festivals. The first restitutions date back to the 1970s, following the passage of international conventions against the illicit traffic of cultural property (Unesco 1970, 1973). In 1978, the head of Unesco, Amadou-Mahtar m’Bow, launched an appeal for return. That year too the “Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation” was founded.Most of the demands alluded to above were turned down on grounds that the collections to which the objects belonged were “inalienable.” Where returns did occur, these were not in fact restitutions: objects were “donated” by Belgium to Zaire; a ram sculpture was “offered” to Mali; Benin bronzes were “resold.” The only actual (and scant) returns were of human remains. The 2000s brought a little change. In 2006, France was made to return to Nigeria Nok sculptures previously held in the Louvre; in 2008, after much debate (Ficquet 2004), Italy returned the famed Aksum stela to Ethiopia; in 2014, the Denver Museum returned 30 Vigango statues to Kenya (Nevadomsky 2018). President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 Ouagadougou speech, followed by the Sarr-Savoy report (2018) and a bill on the restitution of cultural property to Benin and Senegal (2020) by France, opened a new sequence of debate in the West on the legality and legitimacy of the restitution process. Simultaneously, in the African countries concerned, debates around restitution have emerged as well. On the continent, the matter of return is diversely addressed as a challenge for the elaboration of national imaginaries, as a fulcrum for international cultural cooperation, and as a lever for enhancing tourism.

To date, the scholarly literature has focused mainly on historical, legal or political issues and on restitution from the point of view of Western and intergovernmental actors (König et al. 2018; Sarr & Savoy 2018). Still, some researchers (Clifford 2013; Bodenstein & Pagani 2014), often in the wake of artists (Fred Wilson, Sammy Baloji, Kader Attia), have sought to look further afield, questioning the violence of exhibitions mounted in the West that incorporate objects subject to restitution claims and considering the pain that attends objects consigned to a life in exile or the diaspora (Galitzine-Loumpet 2011; Appadurai 2017). Still, other authors examine the role of museums on the African continent (Bondaz et al. 2014); Seiderer 2014; Abungu 2018; Akogni et al. 2019), their tourist audiences (Quashie 2009; Cousin 2013; Doquet et al. 2018), and their future (Bocoum et al. 2018), from processes of “demuseification” (Loumpet 2018) to various forms of object resocialization (Tassi et al. 2018; Ndjock Nyobe 2019; Malaquais & Vincent 2020).

This call for papers proposes to shift the focus: 1) from the West to the African continent, 2) from questions of restitution to the actual process of return, 3) from museum-centered visions to visions centered on the roles played by diaspora communities and tourism, 4) from official heritage bodies and authorities to places, narratives and transmissions commonly taken to be marginal, secondary or unofficial. The challenge, here, is to address the political underpinnings and effects, the economic roles and the social uses attending the return of objects.

Three approaches are envisaged:

1- Political and identity-centered stakes of quests and mobilizations for restitution. Drawing on archival sources, surveys and/or testimonies, proposed articles should document the genealogy of calls and mobilizations for the return of objects. Who are the actors involved? What networks and stakes are at play? What roles have institutions and international conventions played? What types of roles have diaspora communities played? How do the actors involved relate to past and current debates? What manner of political stands do demands for restitution articulate? What relations do they bear to international relations, to the reinforcement or the contestation of national narratives, to the identity of those who hold the reins of power? What is the nature of local, national and transnational mobilizations and how do they relate to one another?

2- Cultural mechanisms and economic and commercial justifications for return
Proposed articles should examine the form, justifications and legal, technical, administrative or scenographic devices of return. What are the legal conditions of return and how are they related to its concrete modalities? What are the issues underlying this relationship? What audiences do museums concerned by the return of objects target? What are the respective roles of the African art market, heritage conventions and tourist labels? What role do arguments in favour of tourism play in calls for return and how do they work to justify such calls? How do they reinforce or, on the contrary, counteract other motivations, notably political, cultural and religious?
3- Memories and social (re)appropriations
The challenge here is to describe the process of return from and to the social spheres that consider themselves the owners, heirs or guarantors of the objects concerned: cultural or religious institutions, traditional authorities or communities, the art world, etc. Proposed articles should focus on the attachment to and the value of objects claimed by various protagonists, the benefits (or, in contradistinction, the negative energies) expected to flow from the return of spiritually endowed “entities,” the ways in which the latter relate to questions of “identity” and/or “otherness.” What manner of intersection does one encounter, in this setting, between institutional, community and intimate worlds, what overlaps between family ties, spiritual beliefs, untranslatable and matrimonial memories (Hertz 2002)? Finally, in the context of return, what roles do artisans and artists play in fostering cultural reconnections and social reconfigurations?
While the primary focus of the present call for papers is on restitution in French-speaking Africa, this special issue aims to engage with the entirety of the African world in order to shed light on different contexts of colonial spoliation, postcolonial disparities and the diverse mobilizations these have engendered. Articles documenting, through surveys, requests for returns, actual reception and analysis of local terms of use will be greatly appreciated. Articles hinging on interviews and bringing together a range of actors through co-writing will be welcome. This double issue is scheduled to appear in September 2023.
The new deadline for sending abstracts (500 words maximum) is April 15, 2021 at midnight (GMT + 1). Proposals should be sent to Saskia Cousin (, Anne Doquet ( and Alexandra Galitzine Loumpet (

Double numéro thématique coordonné par Saskia Cousin (CESSMA, Université de Paris), Anne Doquet (IMAF, IRD) & Alexandra Galitzine-Loumpet (CESSMA)

Les débats autour des restitutions des biens culturels sont aussi anciens que les spoliations. Sur le continent africain, certaines demandes sont médiatisées au moment des Indépendances et des festivals panafricains. Les premières restitutions datent des années 1970, à la suite des conventions internationales contre le trafic illicite des biens culturels (Unesco 1970, 1973). En 1978, Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, alors directeur général de l’Unesco, lance un appel pour le retour. La même année est créé le Comité intergouvernemental pour la promotion du retour de biens culturels à leur pays d’origine ou de leur restitution en cas d’appropriation illégale.Pourtant, la plupart des demandes essuient un refus au nom de l’inaliénabilité des collections et les rares retours ne sont pas des restitutions : objets « donnés » par la Belgique au Zaïre, sculpture du bélier « offerte » au Mali, « revente » des bronzes du Bénin… Seuls des restes humains ont fait l’objet d’une restitution. En 2006, la France doit cependant rendre au Nigéria les sculptures Nok du Musée du Louvre ; en 2008, après de nombreux débats (Ficquet 2004), l’Italie restitue à l’Éthiopie la stèle d’Axoum. Le Kenya reçoit 30 statues vigango du Denver Museum of Nature and Science en 2014 (Nevadomsky 2018). En 2017, le discours du président Macron, suivi du rapport Sarr-Savoy (2018) et d’un projet de loi sur la restitution de biens culturels au Bénin et au Sénégal (2020), ouvre en Occident une nouvelle séquence de débat sur la légalité et la légitimité des restitutions. Dans les pays africains concernés, la restitution est en revanche perçue comme un enjeu pour l’imaginaire national, une éventuelle coopération culturelle sincère ou un espoir touristique.

La littérature scientifique atteste de cette divergence d’appréciation et porte principalement sur les questions historiques, juridiques ou politiques et sur la restitution du point de vue des acteurs occidentaux et intergouvernementaux (König et al. 2018 ; Sarr & Savoy 2018). Des chercheurs (Clifford 2013 ; Bodenstein & Pagani 2014) et des artistes (Fred Wilson, Sammy Baloji, Kader Attia) interrogent la violence des exhibitions postcoloniales, les mémoires douloureuses d’objets en exil ou en diasporas (Galitzine-Loumpet 2011 ; Appadurai 2017). D’autres travaux examinent le rôle des musées sur le continent africain (Bondaz et al. 2014 ; Seiderer 2014 ; Abungu 2018 ; Akogni et al. 2019), leurs publics touristiques (Quashie 2009 ; Cousin 2013 ; Doquet et al. 2018) ou leur avenir (Bocoum et al. 2018), des processus de « démuséalisation » (Loumpet 2018) aux diverses formes de resocialisation des objets (Tassi et al. 2018 ; Ndjock Nyobe 2019 ; Malaquais & Vincent 2020).

Cet appel propose de déplacer la focale : 1) de l’Occident aux pays africains concernés, 2) des questions de restitution aux problématiques du retour, 3) de la vision muséocentrée aux rôles des diasporas et du tourisme, 4) des instances et autorités officielles du patrimoine aux lieux, récits et transmissions considérés comme marginaux, secondaires ou officieux. L’objectif de ce numéro est donc d’étudier les enjeux politiques, les rôles économiques, les usages sociaux du retour des objets depuis les pays concernés à travers trois thématiques :