Humboldt Forum
© SHF / David von Becker
To Whom Does Culture Belong?

October 3, 2019, 6:30 PM

To Whom Does Culture Belong?

@ Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace, Construction site south entrance

The event is booked out

in German, English and French (translated into German, English and French)

Public panel discussion with international experts as part of the symposium Interdisciplinarity Revisited on 3 October 2019 at the Humboldt Forum.

How should we treat objects from colonial contexts? Positions on this issue range from joining forces with the countries of origin to do research on the holdings to returning entire collections – with loaning objects to the societies of origin as an intermediate suggestion. Exhibitions of the holdings of the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst are due to open at the Humboldt Forum in 2021. The Humboldt Forum hence stands right at the centre of this debate and has a special responsibility regarding the future of the ethnographic collections and their presentation in a museum context.

As part of the symposium Interdisciplinarity Revisited the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss will stage a public panel discussion with international scholars and curators. The panel will address the question “To Whom Does Culture Belong?” using a transdisciplinary approach and examining the issue from legal, art historical, educational and socio-anthropological perspectives. This approach will also play an important role in the future work of the Humboldt Forum.

Panel discussion

Hartmut Dorgerloh, general director of the Humboldt Forum, will speak with four experts about various dimensions of the question of cultural property. The art historian Abdoulaye Touré from Dakar will explore the question from an educational and art-historical perspective. Henry J. Drewal from Wisconsin will also present an arts historical perspective, with focus on the verbal, visual and performance arts of the Yoruba, he gives insights into his multi-sensorial approach “sensiotics”. Sharon Macdonald, who holds the Alexander-von-Humboldt professorship at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, will contribute a socio-anthropological perspective to the discussion. Corinne Hershkovitch, a lawyer specializing in art, cultural heritage and intellectual property rights, will shed light on the legal aspects. Following the panel the audience will be invited to join in the discussion with questions.

"To Whom Does Culture Belong?"

Henry John Drewal is Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received a doctorate from Columbia University in African art, history and culture – his academic career was first inspired by apprenticeships with Yoruba sculptors in Nigeria. Using a “sensiotic” approach, Drewal investigates the role of the senses and perceptual faculties in the creation, development and shaping of art, persons, cultures and histories).

Corinne Hershkovitch is a lawyer, a member of the Paris Bar and a partner in the law firm Cabinet Corinne Hershkovitch. She specializes in art law and is concerned with questions of provenance, restitution, donations, probative value, property rights, insurance, transportation of art across borders, the recovery of lost or wrongfully acquired art, and cultural heritage. Since 1992, Corinne Hershkovitch has worked on many legal cases involving looted art. She currently teaches at Université Paris 2 Panthéon Assas.

Sharon Macdonald is Alexander-von-Humboldt Professor of Social Anthropology at the Institute for European Ethnology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, where she is director of the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH). She is also director of the research project “Making Differences: Transforming Museums and Heritage in the 21st Century” and is Principal Investigator in the excellence cluster “Matters of Activity”. She is also a research affiliate at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, a member of the scientific advisory board of the Berlin Exhibition at the Humboldt Forum as well as a member of the boards for the history of the Übersee-Museum and the Haus der Europäischen Geschichte.

Abdoulaye Touré is professor and director of the Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire Cheikh Anta Diop (Fundamental Institute of Black Africa Cheikh Anta Diop, IFAN). He holds a doctorate in art and humanities with a focus on modern and contemporary history. Prior to his appointment at IFAN Abdoulaye Touré worked as a secondary school teacher and as an educational consultant. He was also director of the departments of humanities and museums at IFAN and curator at the Gorée Historical Museum.

Hartmut Dorgerloh is an art historian, curator of monuments and cultural manager. He became general director and chairman of the board of the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss in 2018. After senior roles in the Ministry of Science, Research and Culture in the state of Brandenburg and as the founding director of the Haus der Brandenburgisch-Preußischen Geschichte in Potsdam, he was general director of the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg from 2002 to 2018. Since 2004 he has taught as an honorary professor at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.


Interdisciplinarity has been a key notion in scholarship for many years now. However, it embraces a number of different concepts and methods and has yet to be clearly defined. At the symposium Interdisciplinarity Revisited (IR) staged by the Volkswagen Stiftung, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss on 3 and 4 October, international experts will discuss what an interdisciplinary approach means and what its implications are for research and teaching. In seven sessions the symposium will examine the potential and limitations of interdisciplinary cooperation and its significance for opening up new fields of research. The symposium will be the first major scholarly event at the Humboldt Forum.


Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, Schlossplatz, 10178 Berlin, Germany
Southern entrance to the construction site (Breite Str. / Schlossplatz)


The Symposium Interdisciplinarity Revisited is being organized by the VolkswagenStiftung, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss. The Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media by resolution of the German Bundestag.
  • Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • VolkswagenStiftung


Deutschlandfunk Kultur is media partner of the panel "To whom does culture belong" 2019.
  • Deutschlandfunk Kultur
Participating institutions in the Humboldt Forum

The participating partners are the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz with the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Stadtmuseum Berlin and Kulturprojekte Berlin, and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, headed by the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss.

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