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Calling for Rigour and Honesty: Biggar responds to The Brutish Museums

Thursday, 8 April 2021 - 8:45am

The Critic published (18 March) Nigel Biggar's review of The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Cultural Violence and Cultural Restitution (Pluto Press), a book by archaeologist Dan Hicks (Professor of Contemporary Archaeology, University of Oxford). Biggar's review, 'Whites and wrongs', offers a counter-examination of the claims and conclusions set out by Hicks and closes with a clarion call for scholarly rigour and intellectual honesty that is able to wrestle diligently with all data available, including data which might challenge preconceptions and prejudices—duties Biggar argues Hicks has failed to discharge.

In a subsequent essay, 'Are museums racist?' (CAPX, 6 April), Biggar reflects more generally on the issues raised by the proposal to return cultural objects obtained during the colonial period to their original owners. In this, he uses his critique of The Brutish Museums to argue that, whatever the justification of restitution, the false assumption that colonialists were always oppressors and the colonised always victims should not be part of it

Taking interest in Biggar's reviews of The Brutish Museums and the larger problem of scholars failing to aproach and to analyse evidence objectively and honestly, journalist Melanie Phillips blogged the following (6 April): 'Challenging the falsehoods about white supremacism. How to do it? Through the fast-disappearing practice of looking at the evidence'.