TAPAS/Thinking About The Past


'Restitution of Colonial Collections in Europe: Possibilities, Challenges, Dilemmas' 

TAPAS/Thinking About the PASt is proud to announce its conference on the restitution of colonial collections in Europe, taking place on December 2 and 3, 2019 in Ghent.  

Following the recent repatriation of human remains from Germany to the Namibian and Australian governments and French president Emmanuel Macron’s statement that the return of African objects in French museums is a ‘priority’, claims for the restitution of colonial acquisitions have gained momentum in Europe. Various social and cultural groups as well as states demand the return of human remains, archives and cultural objects in colonial collections to which they claim cultural, religious, historical or biological affinity. Yet many museums, collectors and governments continue to wrestle with restitution demands, often lacking a clear vision on the best way forward or resorting to defensive discourses. These include a legalist reasoning in which states and ethnographic museums today cannot be held accountable for crimes committed so long ago, referring to the high scientific or market value of the acquired objects or following a statist reasoning in which only claims by ‘nation states’ are valued as legitimate. This conference wants to particularly explore such motivations and the implicit philosophical convictions that underpin many restitution-claims and responses to them. More information on the venue and the full programme follows soon! 

Please find our call for papers here!


Decolonizing Practices and Discourses in Belgium

TAPAS/Thinking About the Past is pleased to announce its next workshop and reading group series on Decolonizing Practices and Discourses in Belgium (2018 - 2019) in Ghent. 

Around the world, the idea of ‘decolonization’ has become the rallying cry of those trying to undo the racist legacies of the past. Following this international trend, various social movements in Belgium fighting for equal rights and against discrimination increasingly entangle their present-day demands for equality with demands to ‘decolonize’ our society. This doctoral school focuses on the complexities of the struggle for decolonization and discusses its dilemmas in the particular context of Belgium, on a practical and a conceptual level. It brings both researchers at universities and people from outside academia together in a reflective critical exercise on the question of what a ‘decolonization’ of ‘Belgium’ could mean and for whom.

P¨lease click here for more information and the full programme. 

About TAPAS, an Interdisciplinary Forum for Reflection on our Relation with the Past

In the course of the last few years, there has been a growing interest in our relationship with the past in a large variety of different cultural and social areas. Examples are historical trauma studies, history and memory, history and identity, history of science, as well as the more traditional philosophy and methodology of historiography. What is special about this tendency is that is its pre-eminent transdisciplinary character. There are tendencies to reflect on our relationship with the past in many different disciplines (historiography, literary sciences, post-colonial studies, jurisprudence, philosophy of science, sociology,…), but it does not hold a mainstream position in any of them. As a consequence, researchers who are interested in reflecting on our relation with the past often find themselves isolated within their own discipline.

The aim of this forum is to change this situation by bringing together young researchers from different disciplines who work on the reflection on our relationship with the past, whether or not this relation is popular, literary or scientific or whether or not it comes from a historiographical, philosophical, post-colonial, anthropological or sociological agenda. This initiative is meant in the first place for young researchers (pre- and post-doc) working in Belgium and the Netherlands, but in principle it is open to all. The main aim of this project is to give young researchers the opportunity to share their views with their colleagues, to create a broad intellectual network, to get feedback about their own work, and to organize transdisciplinary reading groups and workshops on topics which are too uncommon in their own discipline.

TAPAS is a forum which means that there is no single goal, approach or method. The intention is to bring together different approaches and methods rather than propagate one of them.