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Pressing Matter received a grant of 3.5 million euros of the National Science Agenda of the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to analyse the role colonial collections could play in resolving tensions in dealing with our colonial past. Anthropologist Amade M’charek of the University of Amsterdam coordinates the work package on competing notions of value.

Museum featuring masks, sculptures and costumes from Africa, Asia, Oceania and Americas
Museum in Paris featuring masks, sculptures and costumes from Africa, Asia, Oceania and Americas

Within Western Europe there are growing concerns about how to address ethno-historic, archaeological objects as well as biological specimens (including human remains). Heated debates reveal polarized positions: some argue that colonial objects should be returned to their originating communities to correct historical wrongs; others that they should be retained by museums for their (universal) cultural and scientific value. Yet others champion dialogue and sharing in how objects are distributed.

Pressing Matter will bring scholars from anthropology, history, heritage studies and biological sciences in conversation with critical legal studies and science and technology studies to develop and test new theoretical models of value, ownership and forms of return, thereby introducing nuance into the heated debates about restitution.

Valuing nature, valuing science

Amade M’charek, Professor Anthropology of Science at the department of Anthropology of the University of Amsterdam, is in charge of the workpackage Valuing nature, valuing science that will explore competing notions of value that inform colonial objects in museum collections.

Pressing Matter will be coordinated by professor of political history Susan Legêne of VU University. The project received a grant of 3.5 million euros of the National Science Agenda, of the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

Prof. dr. A.A. (Amade) M'charek

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body