Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)Possession and the Politics of Knowledge (BEYONDREST)

Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)Possession and the Politics of Knowledge (BEYONDREST)

On the backdrop of ongoing debates to decolonialize museums, Beyond Restitution asks if the return of looted art can be regarded as a closure of historical wounds. The project probes the focus on restitution that inadvertently casts dispossessed art in terms of contested property. Instead, it explores what kind of loss dispossessed art engenders, and how this loss has shaped the knowledge production on heritage. It focuses on the interlocution between Western Europe, the Near and Middle East, and North Africa, mapping relationships between people and “things” that have largely been left out of current debates. The project starts in the mid-19th century, which witnessed the rise of the museum in its modern form as well as violence unleashed by imperial and colonial projects and dispossession. Innumerable objects made their way into international collections, categorized mostly as “Islamic art,” or as the “universal heritage of humankind” that nonetheless symbolically and proprietarily belongs to the “West.” Taking restitution not as an endpoint but as the point of departure for its inquiry, Beyond Restitution tackles dispossession not as a loss to be mended but a means to transform knowledge through inquiries into absence. The interdisciplinary research group is employing a wide methodologically matrix, including ethnographic interviews, visual analysis of exhibitions, archival research, and examinations of the laws governing cultural assets to capture the proprietary stakes in the interplay of epistemic remembering and forgetting. The research also extends to contemporary artistic approaches to dispossessed heritage as alternate paths of knowledge making in a field that has to contend with impasses that arise when centering on what is absent rather than what is present, on what is lost, rather than found. Beyond Restitution argues that the dispossession of art is not merely a problematic of colonialism or empire, that is of the past, but an ongoing process that is constitutive for the governance of heritage in its national and transnational formations. Indeed, it is a precondition for the ways in which art and other “cultural assets” circulate.

This five-year project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 101045661), hosted by the Forum Transregionale Studien (Forum), and related to EUME.

Funded by:


Banu Karaca

Principal Investigator
+49 (0)30 89001 426
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Çiçek İlengiz

Postdoctoral Researcher
+49 (0)30 89001 441
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Lamia Moghnieh

Ethics Advisor
University of Copenhagen
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Jessica Metz

Project Coordinator
+49 (0)30 89001 427

Loes Hendriks

Student Assistant
+49 (0)30 89001 427



21-23 Sep 2023 | Çiçek İlengiz (BEYONDREST): "Grieving Publicly in the Cityscape of Dersim: A Dialogue between Three Statues", part of the panel "An Affective Genealogy of the Turkish Republic in Its Centennial" of the Fourth European Convention on Turkic, Ottoman and Turkish Studies (Turkologentag 2023), University of Vienna.

12 Jul 2023 | Goat on the Mountain, Moon in the Sky, Fish in the Water: Talk with rezzan gümgüm (artist), Zeynep Kezer (Newcastle University), Barış Yıldırım (lawyer) and Çiçek İlengiz (BEYONDREST), Depo Istanbul.

07 Jul 2023 | Çiçek İlengiz (BEYONDREST): "Healing by the Magical Landscape: The Sacred Place of Yeşil Evliya", part of the Workshop The Supernatural, Healing and Mental Health in Contemporary Middle East, Universität Bamberg (7-8 July 2023).

28 Jun 2023 | BEYONDREST Workshop Beyond Guidelines: The Question of Ethics in Transregional Research and Knowledge Production, Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. Program (PDF)

13 Jun 2023 | Banu Karaca (PI BEYONDREST): The National Frame: Art and State Violence in Turkey and Germany, part of the Colloquium of the Institut für Ethnologie und Kulturwissenschaft, Universität Bremen.

25 May 2023 | Goat on the Mountain, Moon in the Sky, Fish in the Water: Talk with rezzan gümgüm (artist), Dilşa Deniz (Harvard University), Ahmet Kerim Gültekin (Freie Universität Berlin) and Çiçek İlengiz (BEYONDREST), Depo Istanbul.

02 May 2023 | Banu Karaca (PI BEYONDREST): Violent Possessions: Cultural Heritage and the Politics of Knowledge, with responses by Antowan Byrd, Astrid Deuber-Mankowsky, Philipp Hohmann and Ruslana Lichtzier, Northwestern University.

20 Apr 2023 | Banu Karaca (PI BEYONDREST): Book Talk "The National Frame: Art and State Violence in Turkey and Germany", Stanford Humanities Center.

11 Apr 2023 | Banu Karaca (PI BEYONDREST): "Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)Possession and the Politics of Knowledge", Stanford Humanities Center.

03 Apr 2023 | Banu Karaca (PI BEYONDREST): "The National Frame: Art and State Violence in Turkey and Germany", with responses from Aslı Iğsız and Andreas Huyssen, part of the Cultural Memory University Seminar, Columbia University.

14 Feb 2023 | Çiçek İlengiz (BEYONDREST): When Memory Is Not in Competition: Open-Ended Remembering in Turkish Kurdistan, part of the PRISMA UKRAÏNA Teatime Conversations (online).

tba | Banu Karaca (PI BEYONDREST): "From Multiculturalism to Diversity: The Continued Seductiveness of Orientalism and its Discourses", part of the Workshop Istanbul on Display: Dis:connections in the Globalisation of Contemporary Art from Turkey (Käte Hamburger Research Centre global dis:connect, Munich / online).


26 Oct 2022 | Banu Karaca (PI BEYONDREST): Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)Possession and the Politics of Knowledge, part of the EUME Berliner Seminar (online).

11 Jul 2022 | Book presentation "Islam and Heritage in Europe: Pasts, Presents and Future Possibilities", followed by a roundtable discussion with Banu Karaca (PI BEYONDREST), part of the Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik / CARMAH Colloquium series (Berlin/online).