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Restitution of looted art is a controversial and complex topic. Whilst several museums and 'holding' states have developed policies to return artefacts looted during imperialism or the Second World War, others, such as the British Museum, so far oppose restitution by reference to the value of the 'universal museum'. Questions to be discussed in this course are: what do we consider 'looted art'; what rules exist in this field; and, moreover, how can we make sure that an antiquity on the market was not illicitly trafficked?

Cultural objects are not 'just' commodities but enjoy a protected status under (international) law. In fact, today the protection of cultural heritage has also been acknowledged as a matter of peace and security; criminal justice; fundamental human rights and the sustainable development of societies.

Nevertheless, around the world and throughout history cultural objects have been, and are still being, looted. Over time such objects may turn into symbols of a cultural identity or (lost) family history, especially if the looting took place in the course of persecution or other human rights violations. Various categories of looted art can be distinguished, namely historical cultural losses such as colonial takings and Nazi-looted art, and present-day looting - such as 'conflict antiquities' or unlawfully exported 'movable antiquities'. 

The question, less clear-cut as it may seem, is: what about the restitution of such looted objects? In this course the normative (legal and ethical) framework for protection and ownership of cultural heritage will be introduced, with a focus on the restitution of looted artefacts. The aim is to familiarize you with the topic of (contested) ownership of cultural objects, and with the increasingly important role of provenance research in that regard.

Various experts and scholars working in this field will be invited to give guest-lectures, from (art) historians, provenance researchers to law enforcement.


All lectures will take place on-campus and we assume you can be physically present during the scheduled hours. You can find the timetable on Datanose.


Registration is possible for second or higher year students participating in an Honours programme. The registration for the Honours courses will start on December 1, 10 am -  December 5, 11 pm, You can register through the online registration form that will appear on Honoursmodules IIS(registration is NOT through SIS or GLASS).

Please note: There is no guarantee no guarantee for placement if you register after 5 December, so make sure you register on time. You will hear which course(s) you are registered for before 20 december. For questions about registration, please contact us at

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