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Talk / Lecture

Off the Press: The Contested Crown: Repatriation Politics between Europe and Mexico by Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll

November 13, 2023 | 12:30PM - 2:00PM



Join the Fowler in welcoming artist, historian, and professor of history at the Central European University in Vienna, Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll, for a program on her newest publication: The Contested Crown: Repatriation Politics between Europe and Mexico (University of Chicago Press). Carroll meditates on the case of a spectacular feather headdress believed to have belonged to Montezuma, the last emperor of the Aztecs. This crown has long been at the center of political and cultural power struggles, and is one of the most contested museum claims between Europe and the Americas. Taken to Europe during the conquest of Mexico, it was deposited at Ambras Castle, the Habsburg residence of the author’s ancestors, and is today in Vienna’s Welt Museum. Mexico has repeatedly requested its return, but the Welt Museum cites scientific reasons for retaining it, insisting that it is too fragile to travel. The Contested Crown is both a biography of a cultural object and a history of collecting and colonizing; it also offers an artist’s perspective on the creative potentials of repatriation. Carroll compares the ethics underlying the restitution claims pertaining to objects taken by colonial powers to those entailing artworks stolen from victims of the Holocaust; and considers the relationships between Indigenous people, international law, and the museums with global holdings. She also addresses the significance of copies, and the role of conservation science in shaping collections. Illustrated with diagrams and rare archival material, the book brings together global and European history; material culture surrounding the crown and debates about repatriation.

A book-signing and conversation will follow the talk. Refreshments will be served in the courtyard.

12:301:15 pm: Book talk in Fowler Deutsch Conference Room 

1:152 pm: Book signing and light refreshments in the Courtyard

Author bio

Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll is an artist and historian currently leading the project REPATRIATES: Artistic Research in Museums and Communities in the process of Repatriation from Europe ( She is professor of history at the Central European University in Vienna and honorary professor and chair of global art at the University of Birmingham. She received her PhD from Harvard University and is the author of Art in the Time of Colony (2014); The Importance of Being Anachronistic: Contemporary Aboriginal Art and Museum Reparations (2016); Botanical Drift: Protagonists of the Invasive Herbarium (2017); Bordered Lives: Immigration Detention Archive (2020); Mit Fremden Federn: El Penacho und die Frage der Restitution (2021); and is an editor of the journal Third Text. 

Her rituals of repair and experimentation with interventions in institutions often include ethnographic collections and have been exhibited in many museums, including the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, U.K. and the Royal Museums in Greenwich, U.K.; contemporary art and film venues at the Venice, Marrakech, and Sharjah Biennales; Center for Art and Media/ZKM in Germany; Manifesta, Taxispalais, Extracity, Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Germany; Savvy, LUX, and Chisenhale. Her new film and archival project are currently on display in the Wende Museum in LA.

Off the Press
Join the Fowler to hear from UCLA professors and cultural leaders from beyond the university about their recently published books, hot off the press.

Parking available in UCLA Lot 4, 198 Westwood Plaza, directly off Sunset Blvd; $3/hr or max $15/day. Rideshare drop-off at 305 Royce Dr.

Image credit: Photo by Stefan Galvan

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