SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

The Politics of Restitution

Jos van Beurden (Researcher, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Hilmar Farid (Director General of Culture, Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)

Date: 20 May 2021Time: 10:00 AM

Finishes: 20 May 2021Time: 12:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Webinar

Speakers: Jos van Beurden (Researcher, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Hilmar Farid (Director General of Culture, Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)

Discussant: Seang Sokha (PhD student, SOAS University of London)

Chair: Panggah Ardiyansyah (Co-editor, Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution)


Lessons for the Future: Returns by the Netherlands to Indonesia in the 2010s and the 1970s
Jos van Beurden

Between 1949 and 1975 Indonesia and the Netherlands negotiated about the return of a number cultural and historical objects, lost during the colonial era. At the time, the Netherlands was praised internationally for this return. But how do we look at it now? 

In 2013, the municipality of Delft made a generous offer to Indonesia: the repatriation of the bigger part of the collection of the defunct Nusantara Museum: some 15,000 objects. Finally, in December 2019, only 1,500 of them were shipped to Indonesia. What happened in between? And how generous was the Dutch offer?

If return of involuntary lost heritage is meant to heal a relationship that was violated and to undo some of the injustices from the colonial past, what can be learnt from these two returns?

The Future of Restitution: What is Possible?
Hilmar Farid

Abstract not available.

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The Politics of Restitution

Speaker Biographies

Jos van Beurden

Dr Jos van Beurden is researcher colonial cultural collections and restitution issues, affiliated to the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. In June 2021, his book ‘Ongemakkelijk erfgoed – Koloniale collecties en teruggave in de Lage Landen’ (Uncomfortable heritage – Colonial collections and restitution in the Netherlands and Belgium) will come out. His pioneering study ‘Treasures in Trusted Hands – Negotiating the Future of Colonial Cultural Objects’ (2017) was nominated for the NWO Boekman Dissertation Price. Earlier he wrote ‘Herplaatsing Collectie Museum Nusantara Delft’ (Reallocation Collection Museum Nusantara Delft)(2018), ‘The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures – The Case of the Netherlands’ (2012) and ‘Goden, Graven en Grenzen – Over Kunstroof uit Afrika, Azië en Latijns Amerika (Gods, Graves and Frontiers – About pillage of art from Africa, Asia and Latin America) (2001; e-version 2013). Jos van Beurden is running the mailing list and Facebook-page RM* [restitution matters] with news clippings about restitution of colonial collections.

Hilmar Farid

Hilmar Farid is a historian and cultural activist. In the 1990s he was active in the pro-democracy movement. He is a founding member of Jaringan Kerja Budaya, a collective of artists and cultural workers in the early 1990s, and also the Institute of Indonesian Social History in 2000. He taught history and cultural studies at the Jakarta Arts Institute and University of Indonesia for several years. He received his PhD from the National University of Singapore and wrote his thesis on Pramoedya Ananta Toer and the politics of decolonization in Indonesia. He has been an active member of the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives (ARENA) and the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society. On 31 December 2015, after a long selection process, he was appointed as the Director General for Culture at the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia.

Sokha Seang

Seang Sokha studied archaeology for his bachelor’s degree at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Cambodia. Between 2006 and 2013, he worked as a language and epigraph researcher for the Research Centre for Computational Linguistics in Bangkok. He received two master’s degrees, the first one is in Southeast Asia Studies at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, and the second one is the History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London. Between 2016 and 2018, he was a researcher for the Inventory and Registration office of the National Museum of Cambodia. Currently, he is a third-year PhD student of the Department of History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS.

Panggah Ardiyansyah

Panggah Ardiyansyah is a PhD candidate of History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS University of London. His main interest is on the afterlives and knowledge production of Hindu-Buddhist materials in Indonesia, which bring him to read with passion on colonial collecting practice and object restitution, as well as historiography of modern Indonesia. His PhD research focuses on how the Hindu-Buddhist materials in Indonesia - produced during the so-called "classical" period between fifth and fifteenth centuries - were repurposed and reused during the so-called Islamic period ranging from sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. 

Organiser: SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies and SOAS Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme

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