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The Repatriation of Human Remains in France: 20 Years of (Mal)practice

Vigneron, Sophie (2020) The Repatriation of Human Remains in France: 20 Years of (Mal)practice. Santander Art and culture law review, . pp. 313-339. ISSN 2391-7997. (doi:10.4467/2450050XSNR.20.022.13025) (KAR id:86558)

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This article analyses three cases of repatriation of human remains by French public museums in order to critically examine the difficulties in the changing institutional practice. It critically ssesses the statutory and administrative processes that have been used to repatriate human remains and identifies the difficulties that have been and are mostly still encountered. Firstly, it evaluates the public/private conundrum of ownership of human remains in French law, which explains why Parliament had to intervene to facilitate the repatriation of remains in public museum collections, whereas a private society could repatriate the skulls of chief Ataï and his doctor to New Caledonia without legal difficulties. Secondly, it reviews the need for parliamentary intervention for the repatriation of the remains of Saartjie Baartman to South Africa and several Mokomokai to New Zealand. Finally, it criticizes the administrative deadlock that has prevented the development of a repatriation practice that could have b en established after the successful repatriation of the remains of Vamaica Peru to Uruguay. Unfortunately, the process has remained opaque and ineffective, owing to a variety of factors; in particular the ambiguity regarding the role of the Commission scientifique nationale des collections, which is set to be abolished and whose role will be undertaken by the Haut conseil des Musées de France, and a lack of political, financial, and structural support from the Ministry of Culture. Until these shortcomings are addressed and clear criteria for repatriation are drawn up, it is unlikely that France will develop a coherent, transparent, and effective process for the repatriation of human remains.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.4467/2450050XSNR.20.022.13025
Uncontrolled keywords: human remains, repatriation, France, Maori, Commission scientifique nationale des collections
Subjects: K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Depositing User: Sian Robertson
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2021 10:26 UTC
Last Modified: 29 Mar 2021 11:59 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Vigneron, Sophie:
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