School of Arts & College of Humanities

Circumambulating objects: On paradigms of restitution of Southeast Asian art

Circumambulating Objects: on Paradigms of Restitution of Southeast Asian Art (CO-OP) assembles individuals across the arts, culture and heritage fields to question entrenched systems of valuation, ownership, replication, collecting and display as these are brought into relief through restitution processes today.

CO-OP is a research project funded by the Getty Foundation Connecting Art Histories program. Prof Ashley Thompson and Dr Stephen Murphy in the SOAS School of Arts lead a 15-strong cohort of scholars, artists, and museum professionals in examining local Southeast Asian epistemologies underpinning restitution. The project primarily comprises of three annual eventsin Southeast Asia— in Thailand, Indonesia, and Cambodia—where the cohort engages in site visits and discussions around an annual theme.

Group sitting in circle on rocks talking
The cohort makes introductions at Khao Yai National Park, Thailand (Photo by Emma Efkeman) 

In addition to these cohort activities, the project has supported ongoing student research at SOAS via an internship programme. Four MA students in History of Art/Archaeology were able to continue research around restitution fostered within their MA programme. Their work, on the Khmer collections of the British Museum and digital repatriation of Javanese manuscripts, will be published on the CO-OP website in early spring.

Header photo: Udomluck Hoontrakul (PhD, SOAS, Lecturer, Thammasat University) leads deliberations on dinner. (Photo by Emma Efkeman)