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Thinking colonial heritage historically. Missionary collecting, 16th century to present

4 December 2023
10:00 am
San Francesco Complex - classroom 2

This talk approaches colonial heritage as an object of historical investigation against the background of the current debate on decolonisation, restitution policies and dissonant cultural heritage. It argues for missionary collecting as a long-lasting phenomenon since the 16th century, deeply entrenched with colonial powers and empires. By concentrating on the Catholic worlds, the talk regards material engagement as an essential component of the missionary action of both violent transformation of the colonial worlds and ambiguous mediation with Europe. Against this background, missionary collecting is explored as a multifaceted configuration of practices of attention, selection, singularization, and monopolisation of indigenous artefacts in between destruction and conservation. Indigenous creative agencies to engage with and resist confiscations are thematised, as well as complex processes of artefact resignification and entrapment within collections and archives in Europe. Such an entangled perspective calls into question the very same notion of heritage as Eurocentric, making room for emic understandings of competing practices of patrimonialisations that enduring objects embody.


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Sabina Brevaglieri, Humboldt University, Berlin