TAPAS/Thinking About the Past is pleased to announce our next conference: (Dis)Claiming Pasts:Ownership, Responsibility and Contestation on 14-15 December, 2017 in Ghent.
Tensions surrounding the ownership or control over (certain aspects of) the past are an increasingly common phenomenon. Various social and cultural groups demand ownership or control over, or the return of, artefacts or human remains to which they claim cultural, religious, historical or biological affinity (e.g. the case of the Kennewick Man or the recently repatriated skulls of the Nama and Herero). Similarly, former colonies (re)claim archives produced by their former colonizers. Activists claim land or heritage sites that, they argue, historically belongs to them. But claiming pasts can involve more than claiming material remains. Corporations use historical figures or even entire historical periods for ‘retro- branding’ and politicians often refer to the legacy of famous predecessors to legitimize their views or positions. Conversely, there are many examples of individuals or groups who disclaim particular pasts because they are painful or shameful, or because they might come with unwanted (legal and other) responsibilities.
The aim of this workshop is to explore the different strategies, techniques and arguments used by individuals, groups or entire nations to (dis)claim particular pasts, and the different aims and motivations that underpin them. We are pleased to host three keynote speakers: Robert Meister (University of California), George Nicholas (Simon Fraser University) and Amy Hinterberger (University of Warwick).
*** Non-presenters interested in participating in the conference, please fill in this form no later than 7 December***
Call for papers
Call for papers (CLOSED)
Between 2014 and 2016 a curious legal battle took place in Amsterdam. The case concerned ancient Scythian treasures a Dutch museum had on loan from museums in the Crimea region. While the exhibition ran in Amsterdam, Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula. This raised the difficult question: to whom should the objects be returned? Should they go back to the Crimean museums where they came from but that were now under Russian control, or to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine? The litigating parties presented their claims to the judge in Amsterdam: the lawyers representing Ukraine resorted to international law and claimed that the state was the rightful guardian of national heritage. Since the Crimean museums now had taken on ‘a Russian identity’ they no longer had a rightful claim to the treasures. In contrast, the Crimean museums argued that the objects were culturally and historically affiliated with the people of the Crimea and had been residing in Crimean soil for ages, since long before the state of Ukraine came into existence. The litigating parties thus engaged contrasting legal, historical and cultural arguments to claim this particular past and its material remnants.
In this conference we want to explore the different strategies, techniques and arguments used by individuals, groups or entire nations to (dis)claim particular pasts and the different aims and motivations that underpin them.
Tensions surrounding the ownership or control over (certain aspects of) the past are an increasingly common phenomenon. Various social and cultural groups demand ownership or control over, or the return of, artefacts or human remains to which they claim cultural, religious, historical or biological affinity (e.g. the case of the Kennewick Man or the recently repatriated skulls of the Nama and Herero). Similarly, former colonies (re)claim archives produced by their former colonizers. Activists claim land or heritage sites that, they argue, historically belongs to them. But claiming pasts can involve more than claiming material remains. Corporations use historical figures or even entire historical periods for ‘retrobranding’ and politicians often refer to the legacy of famous predecessors to legitimize their views or positions. Conversely, there are many examples of individuals or groups who disclaim particular pasts because they are painful or shameful, or because they might come with unwanted (legal and other) responsibilities. Think, for instance, of the legalist reasoning that the Austrian state cannot be held responsible for crimes committed by Austrian individuals during the Second World War because the Austrian state was under German control after the Anschluss. Or consider Marine Le Pen’s recent statement that France cannot be held accountable for the prosecution of the French Jews during the same period because the Vichy regime ‘did not really represent’ France or the Republic (thereby repeating arguments previously used by de Gaulle and Mitterrand).
For this conference we are especially interested in papers that discuss the local or global dynamics of (dis)claiming pasts in the following contexts:
- Discussions about cultural and intellectual property: (inter)national heritage politics, repatriations, traditional knowledge, etc.
- Nationalist and ethnic vs. universalist claims about the past (e.g. world heritage) and the specific techniques used in these discussions (e.g. claims about cultural affinity vs. biological continuity based on DNA analysis).
- Appropriations of the past in (identity) politics.
- The use of historical arguments in discussions on land rights and land reform.
- Discussions about (transgenerational) responsibility concerning historical injustices, victimhood and suffering.
- Religious claims about the relations between past and present.
- Commodification of the past in marketing, advertisement, tourism, etc.
- Discussions about who has epistemic authority and can claim the proper expertise to speak about/for the past (e.g. academics vs. contemporary witnesses, activists, lawyers and judges, etc.).
We welcome a variety of approaches, including theoretical ones, however, we ask all contributors to use one or more concrete cases as a starting point.
For more information, please check out our conference webpage: http://www.inth.ugent.be/content/disclaimingpasts.
Those interested in participating in the conference are asked to submit an abstract (maximum 700 words) before the 15 September 2017. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by the end of September 2017.
Please send abstracts and questions to:
Ghent University – Department of History
9000 Ghent - Belgium
Prof. Bruno de Wever (Ghent University)
Prof. Bert de Munck (University of Antwerp)
Prof. Idesbald Goddeeris (KU Leuven)
Prof. Stefan Berger (Ruhr University Bochum)
Prof. Jo Tollebeek (KU Leuven)
Prof. Chris Lorenz (Ruhr University Bochum)
Prof. Peter Romijn (NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies)
Prof. Stephan Parmentier (KU Leuven)
Prof. Nico Wouters (CegeSoma)
Prof. Valérie Rosoux (Université Catholique de Louvain)
Prof. Nanci Adler (NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies)
Prof. Susan Legêne (VU Free University)
‘(Dis)Claiming Pasts: Ownership, Responsibility and Contestation’
14-15 December 2017
Location: KANTL, Koningstraat 18, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
09:00-09:15: Welcome address and introduction by organisers
09:15-10:15: Keynote lecture by Prof. Robert Meister
10:15-10-45: Coffee break
10:45-12:30: Panel 1: Juridical and Theoretical Perspectives
Chair: Berber Bevernage
- Ulad Belavusau
Memory Laws in European Perspective
- Nanor Kebranian
The Juridical Performative
- Eric Heinze
Theorising Law and Historical Memory: Denialism and the Pre-conditions of Human Rights
13:30-15:15: Panel 2: Cultural Property I
Chair: Katie Digan
- Evelien Campfens
Whose cultural heritage? The Bangwa Queen: A Human Rights Law Approach to Repatriation Claims Concerning Indigenous Cultural Heritage
- Jos Van Beurden
Decolonisation of Colonial Collections by Belgium and the Netherlands
- Kenan Van de Mieroop
The Post-Racial Era and Historical Present
15:15-15:45: Coffee break
15:45-17:30: Panel 3: Memory and History in the Public Sphere
Chair: Eva Willems
- Dienke Hondius
Recognising Slavery Heritage: Recent Development in Historical Research and the Politics of Memory Around Locations in Amsterdam and New York
- Lars Deile
'Bitte stehen lassen': Urban Planning, Politics and History in Postwar Germany. The Potsdam Case
- Dietlinde Wouters
Epistemic Authority and Truth Commissions: The cases of Argentina, Chile, El Salvador and South Africa
19:00: Conference dinner
09:15-10:15: Keynote lecture by prof. George Nicholas
Understanding the Harm when (Indigenous) Heritage is Appropriated
10:15-10:45: Coffee break
10:45-13:00: Panel 3: Identity and the Past
Chair: Rafael Verbuyst
- Felicitas Becker
Muslim Reformist Preachers in East-Africa
- Inge Brinckman
Self-realisation, History and the State in Mau Mau Autobiographies
- Yessim Yaprak Yildiz
(Dis)avowal of State Violence: Confessions of State Officials on Mass Atrocities against Kurds in Turkey
- Egon Bauwelinck
The Antinomy of the Historian and the Descendant. A Case of Dreyfusard Racism
14:00-15:45: Panel 4: Cultural Property II
Chair: Egon Bauwelinck
- Vincent Négri and Isabelle Schulte-Tenckhoff
Saujana and Taonga: Two Ways of (Dis)Claiming the Past with Regard to Cultural Heritage
- Nimalka Passanha
Safe Havens: A Political Agenda Shrouded in an Apolitical Culturally Internationalist Narrative
- Irina Tarsis
It's Complicated: Russian or Ukrainian? Assessing a Century of Contested Ukrainian Cultural Property
15:45-16:15: Coffee break
16:15-17:15: Keynote lecture by Dr. Amy Hinterberger
Repatriating Blood: Ethics, Property and Ownership in Biomedical Research
17:30-18:30: Closing roundtable discussion
Stephan Parmentier, Susan Legêne, Berber Bevernage
18:30: City walk
This conference is organized by the research group Thinking About the Past (TAPAS): Berber Bevernage, Katie Digan, Rafael Verbuyst, Eva Willems
Hotels and tourist info
The city of Ghent is located in the heart of Flanders, halfway between Brussels and Bruges. It is home to about a quarter million people, which results in a lovely combination of a picturesque atmosphere with a young and cosmopolitan state of mind. Ghent is also a historical city: it was one of the richest and most powerful cities of Europe during the Middle Ages, and the historical city centre has been restored in this fashion. You can still breathe in the atmosphere of the Late Middle Ages walking through the city. Ghent also has a young and vibrant atmosphere, combing a lively artistic and musical scene with many different kinds of bars, cinemas, restaurants and night clubs. Ghent has been deemed “Europe’s best kept secret” by Lonely Planet, and “The most authentic historical city in the world” by National Geographic Traveler Magazine.
Must-see tourist attractions are the Sint-Baafs Cathedral with “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” altarpiece, the Belfry and the Gravensteen Castle, but there is a lot more to discover. Due to Ghent’s relatively small size, all tourist attractions are at walking distance from most hotels in the city centre.
The highlight of the year is the “Ghent Festival”, during which the city turns into one big party location for ten days in July. It attracts about two million people each year.
For more information, visit the Ghent Tourism website.
A wide variety of accommodation options are available in Ghent. Taking into account proximity to the conference venue we recommend the Ibis Gent Centrum hotel, the Hotel NH Gent Belfort or the Novotel Gent Centrum. With plenty of rooms and hosts throughout the city, Airbnb is also an excellent option.