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Repatriation of Human Remains: Bibliography

Resources for facilitating the return of ancestral remains and examining the issue from a critical historical perspective

Annotated Bibliography

Included below is a short selection of central readings that were determined to be of key value for the creation of this Libguide and critical for understanding the issue. All of these sources are linked elsewhere in the guide, but compiled here with brief descriptions to give users a foundation for engaging with the readings.
Odegaard, N., & Cassman, V. (2016). The Conservation of Human Remains: Ethical Questions and Experiences in America. Technè. La Science Au Service de l’histoire de l’art et de La Préservatio. n Des Biens Culturels44, 18–21.
This academic article discusses the future of studying human remains in North America in the post-NAGPRA legal environment. Special consideration is given to the field of preservation and the shifting focus that has occurred as a result of repatriation and reburial becoming the objective for many projects.


Pickering, M., & Turnbull, P. (Eds.). (2010) The Long Way Home: The meaning and values of repatriation. Berghahn Books.
This textbook acknowledges the inherently multidisciplinary nature of repatriating human remains by examining the issue from a wide variety of subject experts. Academics specializing in the humanities, forensic researchers, and indigenous knowledge custodians all contribute to the contents of this book to create a fully-developed overview of the topic. 
Weiss, E. (2013). Reburying the Past: The effects of repatriation and reburial on scientific inquiry. Nova Science Publishers.
Countervailing the arguments in favor of repatriation from the perspective of comparative studies, Elizabeth Weiss attempts to reconcile the needs for retaining human remains in the fields of forensic biology and paleoarchaeology with the ethical dilemmas emerging from the controversy. A useful text for a "view from the other side".
Jenkins, T. (2010). Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: The crisis of cultural authority. Routledge. 
This book approaches the impact that repatriative efforts have museums and the role of human anthropology in public institutions in an era that increasingly views the expropriation of cultural objects as a violation of not only personal ethics, but institutional ones.  
Editors of the Scientific American (2018). Indigenous Remains Do Not Belong to Science. Scientific American.
Written by the editors of the Scientific American, this article engages with NAGPRA three decades later from a critical perspective by assessing the act's successes and failures. Taking into account the perspectives of tribal authorities and indigenous activists, the article establishes an overview of the legislation's weaknesses to call for strengthening and redefining NAGPRA's mechanisms. 
Colwell, C. (2017) Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the fight to reclaim native America's culture. University of Chicago Press.
Chip Colwell's text on the ethical concerns that surround notions of ownership and patrimony in the field of anthropology offers an overview of the competing claims and the impact of repatriation for the field-at-large. Beginning decades before the passage of NAGPRA, this book's narrative composes a timeline for the efforts taken by indigenous authorities in creating a reevaluation of how the scholarly community approaches the material reality of human remains.
Brown, M. F., & Bruchac, M. (2006). NAGPRA from the Middle Distance: Legal Puzzles and Unintended Consequences. In J. H.Merryman (Ed.), Imperialism, Art and Restitution (pp. 193-217). University of Cambridge Press. 
This section from a textbook on cultural studies in the postcolonial era offers another critical evaluation of NAGPRA in sufficiently greater depth, assessing the act's shortcomings as a legal vehicle for facilitating respectful return. This paper has a strong focus on the logistical complexities that unexpectedly arose from increasing repatriation, such as the latent toxicity of remains subjected to scientific testing that may no longer be appropriate for responsible reburial.
Petrović-Šteger, M. (2013). Claiming the Aboriginal Body in Tasmania. An anthropological study of repatriation and redress. Založba ZRC.
Petrovic-Steger's book on reconciliation in Tasmania examines the complex relationships between legal and cultural concepts of ownership and authenticity at a time when jurisprudence has increasingly become the bedrock of defining material culture for both colonized and colonizing societies. 
Charters, C., & Stavenhagen, R. (Eds.). (2009). Making the Declaration Work: The United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. IWGIA.
Two years after its adoption, this publication on the effects of UNDRIP as an international instrument paves a way forward in moving the declaration beyond a salutary gesture into the realm of being a mechanism for realizing the rights and claims of indigenous communities in the political spheres of contemporary nation-states.
Turnbull, P. (2020). International Repatriations of Indigenous Human Remains and Its Complexities: the Australian Experience. Museum and Society, 18(1), 6-19. 
With Australia being one of the most active governments in directly facilitating the repatriation of remains from both foreign and domestic institutions, this article examines the corresponding effects that these measures have had on forcing Australian society to reckon with power, authority, and reconciliation as a settler-colonial society in a nominally post-colonial era.