Programme / Thematic session IV/a Repatriation of unethically obtained human remains: Can policy and science converge to ensure community justice?‹ back to Programme lister
Thursday / 8 DEC
17:00 - 18:30
The historical unethical use and procurement of human skeletal remains haunts the discipline of bioarchaeology globally. In South Africa, as a result of its colonial and apartheid past, illegal procurement of human remains of indigenous communities, in particular of the Khoe and San was rife in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Several repatriation processes have taken place over the last few years. All of them in the absence of national legislation to direct a process of return, reburial and restitution. The complexity of these processes speaks to the lingering inter-generational trauma endured by affected communities. South Africa has now developed a National Policy on Repatriation and Restitution of Human Remains and Heritage Objects. The purpose of which is to provide an all-encompassing, inclusive framework for repatriation of human remains and restitution of heritage objects. As such it deals inter alia with the preservation of the dignity for human remains as individuals and addresses more challenging issues such as identification of human remains, consultation and communication with affected communities and families.
Drawing on the expertise of the panelists and examples such as the Sutherland 9 process, the session intends to show that complex challenges requires an integration of approaches, disciplines and knowledge systems. It will illustrate how this the newly adopted policy has benefited from such an approach, but that implementation of the policy will similarly need to draw on multiple perspectives to ensure social justice.