Arts & Culture

The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm | 16 January 2021
Online | Free

Walk into any European museum today and you will see the curated spoils of Empire. They sit behind plate glass: dignified, tastefully lit. Accompanying pieces of card offer a name, date and place of origin. They do not mention that the objects are all stolen.

Few artefacts embody this history of rapacious and extractive colonialism better than the Benin Bronzes – a collection of thousands of brass plaques and carved ivory tusks depicting the history of the Royal Court of the Obas of Benin City, Nigeria. Pillaged during a British naval attack in 1897, the loot was passed on to Queen Victoria, the British Museum and countless private collections.

The story of the Benin Bronzes sits at the heart of a heated debate about cultural restitution, repatriation and the decolonisation of museums. In The Brutish Museums, Dan Hicks makes a powerful case for the urgent return of such objects, as part of a wider project of addressing the outstanding debt of colonialism.

How can I attend?

Get the book prior to each session, read it, register to attend the meeting on Zoom or watch the sessions live or whenever you want on the #Slaveryarchive book club channel on Youtube. Please note that if you choose to attend on Zoom, each meeting requires a new registration.

Register here

How do the meetings work?

Authors or editors make a short presentation of their respective books. Attendants can ask questions and provide comments if they wish. If you attend on Zoom you will ask questions orally by first raising your hand (tool of the bottom of the Zoom screen). Please note that you are being broadcast on Youtube and the video will remain there. If you attend on Youtube live, you can type your questions in the chat box and we will read the questions to the author.

Meetings are held on Wednesdays once or twice a month from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Authors based in Europe or Africa present on Saturdays from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. All meetings are held at EST time United States and Canada.

Author Biography:

Dan Hicks is Professor of Contemporary Archaeology at the University of Oxford and Curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum. His award-winning research focuses on the restitution of African cultural heritage from Euro-American collections, focusing on the place of ideas of cultural whiteness in ongoing histories of colonial violence.

Published by Pluto Press in November 2020. Pre-order here

The #Slaveryarchive book club is an online initiative put together by scholars Ana Lucia Araujo (Howard University)Jessica Johnson (Johns Hopkins University)Vanessa Holden (University of Kentucky), and Alex Gil (Columbia University) to discuss newly published books on slavery and the Afro-Atlantic world.

These hard times force us to stay physically apart but encourage us to create digital connections. In many ways digital meetings are more inclusive as readers and authors across the globe can connect without the usual financial and time barriers that separate us.

More events in the Book Club Series:

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