Imperial Legacies in the Discourse on the Establishment of the Humboldt Forum

Tamara Pataki

In: PolisReflects 1(1), pp. 96-111

Moving the ethnological collections to the newly reconstructed
Berlin Palace inspired heated international discussions
over the ethnological collections and the remembrance
of the German Empire. The Humboldt Forum is intended
as a place of national identification and aims to open a
dialogue on the imperial past of Germany, but the form and
substance this discussion took is also subject to criticism.
Based on the concept of imperial practices, as described
by Burbank and Cooper, this paper argues that the legacy
of empires impacts the discourse on the Humboldt Forum
today. A discourse analysis reveals that imperial imaginaries
and practices of imperial knowledge production are still
in place, constructing a distorted narrative of the history of
the German Empire, which marginalizes the participation
of the source communities of the objects displayed, making
the debate around the Humboldt Forum unequal.
Keywords: Humboldt Forum, imperialism, ethnology,
knowledge production, discourse analysis

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