AFRISURGE: Transformative Heritage: politics, peacebuilding and digital restitution of cultural heritage in contemporary Northeast DRCongo

January 2020 to December 2024
customary authorities
political culture
ritual objects
material cultural heritage
cultural capital
Université de l’Uele (Congo-Kinshasa)
Research fields
Arts and Architecture
Cultural Sciences
Law and Political Science

This project aspires to a scientific revision of contemporary African political cultures, adopting a non-Eurocentric and interdisciplinary approach. Beyond making new in-depth knowledge available to aid and peacebuilding organisations, it seeks to have a direct impact on the well-being of the communities being studied through the method of digital restitution of cultural heritage. The underlying premise is that knowledge of one’s cultural history constitutes a cultural capital that is a source of self-esteem and contributes to societal commitment and cohesion.

The project is built on a cross-pollination of three complementary strands of research. The first is a political and development science investigation of the resurgence of customary authorities in contemporary DRCongo. This will take seriously the full spectrum of local expressions on the matter, to acquire a better understanding of the region’s historically-rooted political culture and its underlying cultural logic. The second consists of research on ritual objects and their provenance, to shed new light on customary authority and to prepare for digital restitutions. The third component will explore the transformative potential of efforts to reconnect historically dispossessed ‘source communities’ with their material cultural heritage. The digital restitution will be guided by object provenance research, by an assessment of existing digital infrastructures in the region, and by a thorough consultation with (local) stakeholders to determine what is desirable and feasible.