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Skrydstrup, Martin Christian Hugo

Grant Type
Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship
Completed Grant
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Project Title
Skrydstrup, Dr. Martin Christian Hugo, Independent Scholar, Copenhagen, Denmark - To aid research and writing on 'Once Ours: Dramas of Repatriation and States of Redemption' - Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Preliminary abstract: What form of property do museum objects embody? How should we understand the coming into being of the institution of 'cultural property' and the contemporary praxis of 'retention', 'return', 'restitution', and 'repatriation'? In my field research, I interrogated these interrelated questions vis-a-vis two distinct cultural property polities: the American NAGPRA regime, which is renowned for a uniform legalistic approach, and the Danish ad hoc ethical modality, which has come to be known under the rubric of UTIMUT. My archival and ethnographic research focused predominantly on the 'experts' of each regime trusted to make findings and deliberate disputes. What emerged was two distinctively different technologies of recognition of claimants, where NAGPRA grappled with definitions of indigeneity, specifically with regard to Hawaii, UTIMUT circumvented this question and only recognized other metropolitan museums as legitimate claimants. I found that the undergirding doctrine of NAGRPA was restoration of 'prior possessions', whereas in UTIMUT the operating modality was 'patrimonial partage', ie a form of division of collections, according to curatorial criteria of preservation and display. I argue that these two operating modalities index different colonial legacies and define the materiality of the objects in question. I show that NAGPRA produce claims, whereas UTIMUT silence claims. Ultimately, I demonstrate that the transactional orders of each cultural property polity simultaneously expose the guilt and consciousness of the postcolonial nation-state and offer prospects for State legitimacy by way of redeeming colonial legacies. During the fellowship, I will complete a book manuscript based on this research tentatively entitled: 'Once Ours: Dramas of Repatriation and States of Redemption.'