Seminar: “Return of human remains? Practices, implications and ethical issues”

Where: Clarion Hotel the Hub, Oslo, Norway 
When: November 4th, 2021

The National Committee for Research Ethics on Human Remains (SKJ) welcomes you to an interdisciplinary seminar on the issue of the return of human remains and research ethics.  

The seminar seeks to revisit and explore the various avenues for the return of human remains, different practices, voices and interest groups. Questions surrounding the return of human remains are often challenging, complex and contextually specific, raising a number of ethical issues at a time when indigenous groups and descendants seek greater control over not only historical places and items, but also human remains. 

The question of return, be it artefacts or human remains, creates a need for fresh dialogue in order to overcome colonial histories, reconcile long-standing disputes and as a process of democratization. The opinions of scholars, excavators, curators, legislators and those who claim return often differ. Aiming to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and to investigate the diversity that exists, we invite individuals from all of these backgrounds to participate at the seminar.   

Attendance is free and includes lunch. For questions, please contact Lene Os Johannessen, director of SKJ.


Welcome. Nils Anfinset, professor, University of Bergen and chair, SKJ, and Lene Os Johannessen, secretary, SKJ. 

Session 1: Theoretical and systematical perspectives 

Keynote: “Repatriation of human remains as decolonizing strategy and activism. Drawing from experiences and contemplating new challenges.” Liv Nilsson Stutz, professor, Linnaeus University 

“What is reburied in reburial? Ethical aspects of repatriation and reburial.” Asgeir Svestad, associate professor, The Arctic University of Norway, UiT. 

11:10-11:30: Coffee/tea 

“Repatriation and reburial of human remains: A bioarchaeological perspective.” Nina Elisabeth Valstrand and Monica Nordanger Enehaug, PhD students, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. 

“Returning (to) human remains and delimiting stakeholders – a Danish perspective.” Ina H. Thegen, PhD fellow, Aarhus University.  

“Ethics and the treatment of human remains in developer-led archaeology.” Katharina Lorvik, osteoarchaeologist and senior adviser, Norwegian Institute of Cultural Heritage Research. 

Questions and discussion 

13:00-14:00 : Lunch  

Session 2: Case studies and processes 

Keynote: “Return of human remains – a museum’s perspective.” Elina Anttila Director General of The National Museum of Finland. 

“Balancing ethics during the repatriation in Lycksele.” Adriana Aurelius, PhD student, Umeå University. 

“Colonial re-enactment? Two Museums’ Attempts of Decolonisation and Repatriation.” Josephine Munch Rasmussen, postdoctoral research fellow, University of Agder and Vibeke M. Viestad, postdoctoral research fellow, University of Oslo. 

15:20-15:40: Coffee/tea 

“Nowhere to return? The case of “Maren” at the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology.” Ageliki Lefkaditou, senior researcher, University of Oslo. 

“Who was Maria Grann? The Bioarchaeology of Identity and Ethical Repatriation Issues Relating to a Sámi(?) Skull.” Jonny Geber, lecturer and research ethics officer, University of Edinburgh / affiliated associate professor, Uppsala University. 

Questions and discussion 
Closing comments. Nils Anfinset and Lene Os Johannessen 

To attend, registrer here before October 1st.
Attendance is free and includes lunch. For questions, please contact Lene Os Johannessen, director of SKJ.