Dan HicksMar 26, 2021
The Brutish Museums
The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution
Pluto Books 2021
Dan Hicks, Curator and Professor of Contemporary Archaeology, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University has written a terrific book. The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution (Pluto Books, 2020) is a call to arms, for Western museums to return everything it procured, or more correctly stole, from African locations.
The claim for cultural restitution is made through the Benin Bronzes, artworks pillaged by the British in a 1897 naval attack, loot that was then gifted to the British Museum, on display for the world to see without context. Well, no more. Dan’s book frames this cultural and material theft as a form of colonial violence, the product of weaponizing museums to tell a particular story about African pasts without reflection on Eurocentric pillage and plunder.
Susan Thomson is an Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Colgate University. I like to interview pretenure scholars about their research. I am particularly keen on their method and methodology, as well as the process of producing academic knowledge about African places and people.