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As calls for the return of looted artefacts from Western museums and ethnological collections intensify, what about similarly displaced Global Majority film heritage? In this talk, I present some preliminary findings from an ongoing research project which considers colonial legacies of uneven development and unequal exchange in global audiovisual archiving through the lens of restitution. The project has two interrelated aims: firstly, to make visible the colonial legacies shaping the archival logics and logistics of global film heritage with the aim of developing concrete strategies of redress; secondly and concurrently, to explore in a more speculative register both the challenges and possibilities arising from the conjunction of “restitution”—a paradigm elaborated in relation to irreproducible artefacts and human remains—with the technical object of film after the digital turn. My argument, in short, is that by refracting the restitution debate through the medium-specific affordances and operations of the moving image, we are compelled to move beyond the single question of return, towards a more comprehensive horizon of reparative worldmaking, whose field of action encompasses everything from the uneven development of archival capacity to epistemic violence encoded in archival infrastructures, and on to the legal and economic forms that frame image property and authorship.
Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS