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Unpacking Colonialism. Discussing human remains in German Collections

Digital Exhibition

Similar to many university collections, there are also human remains from former German and European colonies in Göttingen. Most of them were taken without the consent of the local people – by scientists, travelers, colonial officials or traders. Robbery and grave looting were not uncommon. Two Göttingen University Collections still hold around 1,300 human remains from various countries, including from Africa and Oceania.

The digital exhibition „Unpacking Colonialism“ is dedicated to the perspectives of five guest researchers from countries related to these collections in Göttingen. What are their reflections upon encountering these human remains? What questions and demands do they rise about the handling of these remains? With every cardboard box they open, they not only get a glimpse of the human remains stored inside. At the same time, they open the chapter of European colonialism and its continuities that has remained closed for a long time in the German context.

This exhibition centers around several short films made by the cultural anthropologist and filmmaker Sofia Leikam, in her attempt to develop a multi-layered picture of this sensitive topic. In three chapters – Introducing, Doing Research, Giving Context – each of these films portrays the visiting scientists and their different approaches, from archival work to work in the collections to artistic forms.

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