Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
African American Studies
Critical Museology, Decolonial Studies, Museums, Pan Africanism
“Legacies of Empire: Museums, Neocolonialism, and Repatriation” examines four European museums and their presentation of African cultural heritage. Analysis of the British Museum, Louvre, Musée du Quai Branly, and the AfricaMuseum uses qualitative methods and is grounded in both critical museology and decolonial theory. In conducting this analysis, I argue that these museums are engaged in various forms of memory manipulation regarding their colonial empires and that the consequent refusal of these spaces to return African cultural heritage taken during the colonial empire perpetuates the supremacy and violence of their taking. Through analysis of the museums themselves, this thesis considers these spaces to be reflective of social and political values. Framing this within the refusal to return African cultural heritage to their countries of origin, I argue that these museums are serving as actors in a neocolonial world order that maintains the power dynamics of the former colonial systems. In arguing for the return of these objects, this work conceptualizes the repatriation as a facet of reparative justice. The engagement with reparative justice is guided by the Pan African principles of black humanity and dignity, which I argue is systematically removed through the keeping of cultural heritage within the aforementioned museum spaces.
Smith, Kailey, "Legacies of Empire: Museums, Neocolonialism, and Repatriation" (2023). Theses - ALL. 703.