A Skeleton in the Closet - On Repatriation of Human Remains

Katrine Caroline Hoandi Thillemann Vigne

Studenteropgave: Bachelorprojekt


The repatriation of human remains from Germany to Namibia in 2011 and 2014 was met with general disappointment on the side of the Namibians. They expected that the much anticipated project of repatriation would entail an acknowledgement of past injustices Germany had committed in Namibia during the colonial era - no such admission was made. The German government has not engaged with the repatriations, rather it is German institutions who are responsible for the issues pertaining to human remains who have taken the lead. In 2013 the German Musuems Association produced the document entitled “Recommendations for the Care of Human Remains in Museums and Collections” in response to increasing demands for repatriation from various countries of origin. The discourse this document produces on human remains with colonial linkages through various tensions is important to explore as it has consequences for the care of human remains and the management of repatriation which is of great significance to Namibians. The paper concludes by suggesting that human remains with colonial linkages are not given the acknowledgement they deserve. By and large this reflects the inability to recognise the remains as having been lives. The paper suggests that grief is part and parcel to repatriation and in order to grieve, a life must first be acknowledged as having been lived. Repatriation cannot be fulfilled to its full extent unless the deeper issues of a history of injustice are confronted. The issue of the skulls represents a much larger issue of postcolonial relations and possibilities between Namibia and Germany.

UddannelserKultur- og Sprogmødestudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor
VejledereHelle Stenum