connected with the political and economic instability in the Ottoman
Empire, in order to maintain the fragile balance-of-power system on the
continent. Being the Ottoman Empire’s closest neighbour among the
Great Powers, Austria (from 1867 Austria-Hungary) was particularly
interested in the possibility of seizing power over the Balkan lands
hitherto under Ottoman control. Thus, the foreign politics of AustriaHungary in this part of Europe could be labelled ‘frontier colonialism’.
The Dual Monarchy’s colonial efforts were directed towards its own
, 2007; Orser, 2004; Dyson, 2004, 2006; Hicks and Beaudry,
2006), ensuring that historians and practitioners of archaeology get a
more well-rounded view of the whole field, as opposed to a snapshot
at a distinct period. Egyptology has, unsurprisingly, proved to be a
productive area of enquiry with a very particular history, one which
has enormous public appeal in the form of both broader histories (e.g.
Thompson, 2015) and more specific explorations into particular episodes of colonialism, education, field practice, biography and mummy
studies (MacDonald and Rice, 2003
. Aronsson 2004 ; Nielsen 2010 ; Harrison 2013 ). In more general terms, a great deal of attention shifted from the past in itself to the past in the present and therefore from source criticism to perspective criticism. Even so, this criticism may itself be seen as a new way of using of the past in the present.
This criticism has often focused on how the past has been used by nationalism, colonialism, imperialism, tourism, and other “isms”: how selection, interpretation, and mediation have been shaped according to the needs of the present; how the past has been used
here by John Berger ( 1984 : 21), who argued (in a thesis on poetry) that we should hold out the promise that ‘what has been experienced cannot disappear as if it has never been’. The dead may no longer ‘care’ if they were a sacrifice or execution at the time of Roman conquest but we should because it tells us about the experience of colonialism here on the ground. Exhibitions of the dead need this poetic tenet. If one of the purposes of a museum is not merely to collect, curate and conserve for some endlessly deferred future, but to challenge, inspire curiosity and
change, a modernisation of heritage.
The faces of modernity
Words such as modern, modernisation, modernism, and modernity occur everywhere in narratives of human development. They deal with the triumph of progress, enlightenment, rationality, and science, the triumph of individualism, capitalism, urbanisation, industrialisation, and globalisation. But these narratives have been criticised for as long as they have been put forward, and their critics have stressed the dark and destructive reverse side of modernity – alienation, disenchantment, colonialism, genocide
concept is constantly becoming relevant to new areas or seeping into closely related fields: heritage is combined with such words as archaeology, art, canon, church, colonialism, commercialism, conservation, criminality, democracy, development, development-assistance policy, economics, education, environment, ethics, forests, future, globalisation, politics of memory, history, human rights, identity, identity policy, landscape, legislation, management, memory, modernity(!), museums, nationalism, peace-building, politics, quality of life, religion, religious services
The fate of Namibian skulls in the Alexander Ecker Collection in
This article explores the history of the Alexander Ecker Collection and situates
it within the larger trajectory of global collecting of human remains during the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This is then linked to the specific
context of the genocide in then German South West Africa (1904–8), with
the central figure of Eugen Fischer. The later trajectory of the collection
leads up to the current issues of restitution. The Freiburg case is instructive
since it raises issues about the possibilities and limitations of provenance
research. At the same time, the actual restitution of fourteen human remains in
2014 occurred in a way that sparked serious conflict in Namibia which is still
on-going four years later. In closing, exigencies as well as pressing needs in
connection with the repatriation and (where possible) rehumanisation of human
remains are discussed.