From a museum of Others to a museum of Selves: Repatriation, affective relations, and social values of archaeological human remains

Ksenia Pimenova


The mummy of the Altaian Princess is one of the best-known cases of repatriation of human remains in Russia. Drawing on a comparative ethnography of two Siberian museums that conserved her body before and after the return, this article approaches the museums as arenas of affective relations to heritage and as key sites of the enactment of heritage social values. It unpacks the museums’ politics in the Princess’s display to show how and why some affective relations are transformed into “front values” available to audiences, while others remain on the back stage of museum life. It also argues for a more symmetrical approach to sending and receiving museums, which provides important nuances to the analyses of repatriation in terms of power structures and colonial legacies.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/725428