Do 14 Dez 2023 | 17:00–18:30

Cardboard Boxes: The (In)Visibility of Human Remains and their Mobilizing Potential

Regina F. Bendix (Universität Göttingen), Chair: Çiçek İlengiz (BEYONDREST / Forum Transregionale Studien)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

As of the late 18th century, the emerging field of anatomy had developed a great interest in human skulls. Initially motivated by questions of morphological diversity versus common humanity, skulls came to be a founding component of race science and were amassed in a near competitive manner by many research institutions mainly (but not only) of the “Global North.”  In the 21st century, these objects of research have entered a path towards regaining their status as individuals. Drawing from research encounters, team discussions and restitution ceremonies, as well as interviews conducted in the framework of Göttingen University’s interdisciplinary “Sensitive Provenances” project, the presentation seeks to capture the dynamic force inherent to human remains. Long past their active role for research, (in many places) no longer allowed in teaching, removed from (many) museum displays, new narratives of human remains’ journeys and their suspension in time by the thousands in countless storage facilities, they occasion emotional, spiritual as well as pragmatic encounters along former colonial trajectories. Whether crania or ancestors, the contents of cardboard storage boxes hold potential for reconfiguring knowledge in global relations.

Regina F. Bendix is a professor of Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology at the University of Göttingen. In addition to interests in narrative, sensory ethnography and the history of ethnographic disciplines, she has worked extensively on questions of cultural property and heritage. Among her recent publications are Culture and Value. Tourism, Heritage and Property (Bloomington, 2018) and, co-edited with Aziz Haidar and Hagar Salamon, June 1967 in Personal Stories of Palestinians and Israelis (Göttingen 2022).

Çiçek İlengiz works at the intersection of memory studies, politics of emotions and critical heritage studies. Her recent publications have engaged with the conceptual discussions on inheritance, temporality and mourning in the fields of memory and heritage. She is currently revising her book manuscript for publication, tentatively titled The Healing-Injury: Revolutionary Mourning in Post Genocidal Turkey. Combining ethnographic research with oral histories and archival documentation the book offers a critical assessment of the logics of rational politics, the framework of which has been drawn by military, racial, and secular regimes of power.


The event will take place in a hybrid format on site at the Forum Transregionale Studien and via Zoom. We kindly ask for registration via beyondrest(at)


The event is part of the BEYONDREST Conversation Series “Restitution and its Vantage Points: Beyond the Preservation Paradigm.” Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)Possession and the Politics of Knowledge (BEYONDREST) is an ERC-funded, five-year research project at the Forum Transregionale Studien (Project No. 101045661). More information on the project and the conversation series can he found here.

Views and opinions expressed are however those of the speaker(s) and author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency. Neither the European Union, nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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