SOAS University of London

Centre of African Studies

Heritage and Repatriation


Date: 21 October 2020Time: 11:00 AM

Finishes: 21 October 2020Time: 1:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Panel Discussion

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This is 1 of 2 panels on Heritage and Repatriation.


The issue of repatriation and restitution concerns us all in a time of decolonising knowledge. In recent years, calls to repatriate artifacts acquired in the colonial era to their places/communities of origination have become stronger, accompanied by arguments to decolonise understandings of heritage and culture from Eurocentric connotations and efforts to move to more community- and agent-oriented ways of telling histories in museums. In this panel, our experts explore some of these heated debates with reference to their research in art and archaeology, the changing context of museums and the participation of local and global communities.

  • Angelica Baschiera - SOAS University of London, Moderator
  • Dr Romina Istratii - SOAS University of London
  • Christian Luczanits - SOAS University of London
  • Dawa Lhokyitsang - UC Boulder Himalayan Studies
Romina Istratii

Dr Romina Istratii is Research Associate to the Department of Development Studies and the Centre of World Christianity at SOAS University of London. She previously served as Senior Teaching Fellow to the School of History, Religions and Philosophies, teaching on Religions and Development in sub-Saharan Africa. Her research lies at the intersection of gender, religious and development and applies a decolonial perspective to gender and development practice informed by a decade’s experience in community-based research in sub-Saharan Africa. She has previously written on the ethics of international development, western gender metaphysics and religious knowledge systems, and the discourse of fundamentalism in gender studies. Dr Istratii’s most recent research project was a decolonial ethnographic study of conjugal abuse in the Ethiopian Orthodox TäwahÓ™do community of Aksum, which has evolved into the on-going HFGF-funded project “Religion, conscience and abusive behaviour: Understanding the role of faith and spirituality in the deterrence of intimate partner violence in rural Ethiopia.” Dr Istratii is co-founder of the open-access publishing platform Decolonial Subversions.

Christian Luczanits

Christian Luczanits studied Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the Institute of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Vienna, Austria, with a focus on art historical subjects. There he completed his PhD under the external supervision of the late Maurizio Taddei, Istituto Universitario Orientale, Napoli. Following his PhD he held research positions at the University of Vienna until 2000, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2000 to 2003, and the Lumbini International Research Institute, 2005/06. Christian Luczanits also held visiting professorships at UC Berkeley in 2004/05, at Free University in Berlin 2006–08, and at Stanford University and UC Berkeley in the first half of 2010. While teaching in Berlin Christian Luczanits also curated the exhibition "Gandhara – the Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan. Legends, Monasteries and Paradise" at the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland in Bonn together with Michael Jansen and was responsible for its catalogue. Before joining SOAS he has been Senior Curator at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York.

Abstract: Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Collections Today

The AHRC-funded research project Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Collections Today engages monasteries in the Himalayan regions of Ladakh, India, and Mustang, Nepal, in questions of the management and display of their collections of portable artefacts. Of particular importance is the comprehensive documentation of the collection and the creation of inventories accounting for all objects in the collection, as it provides irrefutable proof of ownership to the respective institution. Today, monasteries increasingly also create museum like spaces for the display of parts of their collections, a process which the project also supports. However, there is a considerable gap between the traditional object management and object maintenance these institutions still engage in, and the western concept of a museum which they emulate in terms of display only. Bridging this gap turned out to be the main challenge of this project.

Dawa T. Lokyitsang

Dawa T. Lokyitsang is a PhD candidate in the field of cultural anthropology at the University of Colorado Boulder, USA. Her dissertation research is on the establishment of sovereignty in exile by Tibetan refugees through the development of their own educational institutions and the larger diaspora community of Tibetans in India. In addition to her research focus, she is also interested in and has written about ways of belonging that are racialized and gendered within the Tibetan diaspora community. Lokyitsang is also concerned with questions of Chinese settler colonialism and its impact on Tibetan subjectivities in colonized Tibet, Chinese imperialism more broadly, and the need for decolonization as a necessary praxis still (in Fanon fashion) for counteracting such ongoing mechanics of racialized modern colonialisms and imperialisms. Her scholarly writings have been featured in Lexington Books with forthcoming work with Duke University press and Oxford University press. Occasionally she writes for Lhakar Diaries, a well-liked blog run by and for Tibetans of which she is a co-founder. Lhakar Diaries is also where you will find most of her writings.

Angelica Baschiera

Angelica Baschiera is the Manager of the SOAS Regional Centres and Institutes and has academic expertise on the study of Swahili manuscripts from an historical perspective. Previously, she has managed the SOAS Centre of African studies' multi-disciplinary activities and has expanded her expertise on Governance related issues thanks to the Mo Ibrahim foundation ‘Governance in Africa Initiative’ run at the Centre since 2007. More recently, she has developed links and activities in the field of contemporary African arts. Ms Baschiera advises academics/students/visiting scholars/businesses/creative industries on a range of issues relating to African studies, including funding opportunities for African scholars and students.


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This event is part of the Virtual SOAS Festival of Ideas which will kick off a week-long series of virtual events. The festival includes: panel discussions, student led installations, masterclasses, keynote lectures, a public debate for/against on Decolonising Knowledge and a Verbatim performance by Bhuchar Boulevard on ‘Decolonising Not Just a Buzzword’ capturing SOAS conversations about the need to decolonise its imperial mission.

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Organiser: SOAS Festival of Ideas, SOAS Centre for African Studies

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