31.08.2022 On the repercussions of racial science: The difficulty of talking about the dead

presentation by Sophie Schasiepen at the Kitong-Kiass Symposium in Vienna.

The histories of racial science and colonialism are painful. They are past and present, they persist. As a researcher, one learns certain vocabulary to address some of these legacies, such as human remains, ancestral remains, violence, colonial context, extraction, museum and academic collections. People. Persons. Often, we don’t know the biographies of those who were stolen out of their graves, sold by their former employers, the same people who exploited their labour during their lifetimes, given away by magistrates and military, doctors and civilians. We don’t know their names or where they came from. But they lived, they were the children of mothers and fathers, they existed and they exist now, in boxes, shelves, and inventories, in memories and archives, in their descendants. In my presentation, I will give a short overview of the research done on ‘human remains from colonial contexts in Austrian collections’, discuss possible next steps in a national effort to confront the ongoing violence of keeping these people’s remains in Austrian institutions and address the difficulties of talking about these issues.


In the framework of Restitution, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation: