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Critical essays on W. G. Sebald

In an essay "Ein Versuch der Restitution (An Attempt at Restitution)" delivered as a form of a speech at the opening of Stuttgart's House of Literature, W. G. Sebald asked about the usefulness of literature. This book illustrates some of the recurring concerns of, and tensions in, Sebald's writing: the interanimation of historical and literary discourses, and the clash of individual and collective memories. The coincidence of life and death, and the collision of documentary evidence with the contingent powers of the imagination are also explored. The first set of essays is devoted to issues of translation and style, and explores the revisionist potential of translation, and the question of translation into Sebald's poetry. It is argued that Sebald sought to follow Franz Kafka's stricture through the strategic deployment of 'unwords'. The book examines Sebald's prose works with a reading of Vertigo as an exercise in Surrealist literary historiography, and suggests that The Emigrants can be read as a contest between vision and obscurity. The implications of historical blind spots are pursued in the reading of Anglo-Irish themes in The Rings of Saturn. The various fragments of Sebald's aborted 'Corsica Project' offer a precious glimpse into a work-in-progress. The book investigates the extent to which H.G. Adler's work functions as a key intertext for Austerlitz, and helped determine Sebald's role and identity as a writer attempting to render aspects of the Holocaust. It also explores the two key aspects of Sebald's aesthetic technique, namely prose and photography.

The fate of Namibian skulls in the Alexander Ecker Collection in Freiburg
Reinhart Kößler

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.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Russell J. A. Kilbourn

4003 Baxter-A literature:Layout 1 9/9/13 13:03 Page 247 13 THE QUESTION OF GENRE IN W. G. SEBALD’S ‘PROSE’ (TOWARDS A POST-MEMORIAL LITERATURE OF RESTITUTION) Russell J. A. Kilbourn Artists create potentials for the future by exploiting the resources of the past. In literature, the most important carrier of past resources – the central organ of memory – is genre. (Bakhtin in Morson and Emerson 1990: 288) INTRODUCTION Writing in The New Republic in 1998, James Wood noted that the first appearance of The Emigrants caused him to recall ‘Walter Benjamin

in A literature of restitution
Results of the Charité Human Remains Project
Holger Stoecker and Andreas Winkelmann

From 2010 to 2013 the Charité Human Remains Project researched the provenance of the remains of fifty-seven men and women from the then colony of German South West Africa. They were collected during German colonial rule, especially but not only during the colonial war 1904–8. The remains were identified in anthropological collections of academic institutions in Berlin. The article describes the history of these collections, the aims, methods and interdisciplinary format of provenance research as well as its results and finally the restitutions of the remains to Namibia in 2011 and 2014.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Transnational dynamics in post-genocidal restitutions
Elise Pape

Taking its starting point from a socio-anthropological study combining biographical interviews, semi-structured interviews and ethnographic observations collected between 2016 and 2018 in Germany, France and the United States among Ovaherero and Nama activists, and also members of different institutions and associations, this article focuses on the question of human remains in the current struggle for recognition and reparation of the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama from a transnational perspective. First, the text shows the ways in which the memory of human remains can be considered as a driving force in the struggle of the affected communities. Second, it outlines the main points of mismatches of perspective between descendants of the survivors and the responsible museums during past restitutions of human remains from German anthropological collections. Third, the article more closely examines the resources of Ovaherero in the United States in the struggle for recognition and reparation, the recent discovery of Namibian human remains in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the questions that it raises.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Colonialism, grave robbery and intellectual history
Larissa Förster, Dag Henrichsen, Holger Stoecker, and Hans Axasi╪Eichab

In 1885, the Berlin pathologist Rudolf Virchow presented three human skeletons from the colony of German South West Africa to the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory. The remains had been looted from a grave by a young German scientist, Waldemar Belck, who was a member of the second Lüderitz expedition and took part in the occupation of colonial territory. In an attempt to re-individualise and re-humanise these human remains, which were anonymised in the course of their appropriation by Western science, the authors consult not only the colonial archive, but also contemporary oral history in Namibia. This allows for a detailed reconstruction of the social and political contexts of the deaths of the three men, named Jacobus Hendrick, Jacobus !Garisib and Oantab, and of Belck’s grave robbery, for an analysis of how the remains were turned into scientific objects by German science and institutions, as well as for an establishment of topographical and genealogical links with the Namibian present. Based on these findings, claims for the restitution of African human remains from German institutions cannot any longer be regarded as a contemporary phenomenon only but must be understood as part of an African tradition of resistance against Western colonial and scientific practices.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Marco Aurelio Guimarães, Raffaela Arrabaça Francisco, Sergio Britto Garcia, Martin Evison, Maria Eliana Castro Pinheiro, Iara Xavier Pereira, Diva Santana, and Julie Alvina Guss Patrício

Truth commissions are widely recognised tools used in negotiation following political repression. Their work may be underpinned by formal scientific investigation of human remains. This paper presents an analysis of the role of forensic investigations in the transition to democracy following the Brazilian military governments of 1964–85. It considers practices during the dictatorship and in the period following, making reference to analyses of truth commission work in jurisdictions other than Brazil, including those in which the investigation of clandestine burials has taken place. Attempts to conceal the fate of victims during the dictatorship, and the attempts of democratic governments to investigate them are described. Despite various initiatives since the end of the military government, many victims remain unidentified. In Brazil, as elsewhere, forensic investigations are susceptible to political and social influences, leading to a situation in which relatives struggle to obtain meaningful restitution and have little trust in the transitional justice process.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Dowry restitution in fifteenth-century Valencia
Dana Wessell Lightfoot

6 The right to property: dowry restitution in fifteenth-century Valencia A s has been demonstrated by the previous chapters, although the Furs gave control of all marital assets to husbands, this property was nevertheless always viewed as belonging to wives. Civil suits of dowry restitution brought by Valencian wives against their still-living husbands are the greatest manifestation of this control which, I will argue, represents the agency of women in protecting their marital property. The Furs recognized that although legally husbands had the right to control

in Women, dowries and agency
Abstract only
‘A quoi bon la littérature?’
Jeannette Baxter, Valerie Henitiuk, and Ben Hutchinson

4003 Baxter-A literature:Layout 1 9/9/13 13:02 Page 1 INTRODUCTION: ‘A QUOI BON LA LITTÉRATURE?’ What good is literature? This question surfaces throughout ‘Ein Versuch der Restitution’ (‘An Attempt at Restitution’), an essay first delivered by W. G. Sebald in the form of a speech to mark the opening of a House of Literature in Stuttgart in 2001.1 In characteristic fashion, the author resists all pressure to give a straightforward assessment of what the function, value or responsibility of literature might be at the dawn of a millennium haunted by the

in A literature of restitution
Marriage In fifteenth-century Valencia

This book examines labouring-status women in late medieval Valencia as they negotiated the fundamentally defining experience of their lives: marriage. Through the use of notarial records and civil court cases, it argues that the socio-economic and immigrant status of these women greatly enhanced their ability to exercise agency not only in choosing a spouse and gathering dotal assets, but also in controlling this property after they wed. Although the prevailing legal code in Valencia appeared to give wives little authority over these assets, court records demonstrate they were still able to negotiate a measure of control. In these actions, labouring-status wives exercised agency by protecting their marital goods from harm, using legal statutes to their own advantage.

The key factors in this argument are the immigrant and labouring-status background of these women. Many women immigrated to Valencia on their own from smaller towns and villages. In doing so, these women moved outside of their natal families’ sphere of influence, making them less embedded and subject to the authority of their kin relations. Labouring-status women worked themselves, most often as servants, to generate the necessary funds for their dowries. These factors gave wives of this status greater agency than elite women in contracting their marriages, providing dotal assets and challenging their husbands’ authority over this property in dowry restitution cases. Without the influence of their natal families in making marital decisions, these wives were able to act independently in controlling their marital property, negotiating the structures of patriarchy to their advantage.