Skip to main content

Brazil on the Circuit of International Cultural Relations: Return and Devolution of Ethnographic Goods

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
World Heritage Patinas


After years of requests from CRAN, the Representative Council of France's Black Associations, the French president publicly announced the intention to restitute the African tangible cultural heritage present in French Soil and has asked two great experts to make a report, moving towards a concrete plan. Dutch museums make movements in the direction of restitution and reparation and the German civil society mobilizes to demand the same of the country's museums. The Colombian and Peruvian governments have formally asked Spain and American institutions to give back cultural objects of their pre-hispanic pasts. In this scenario of an increasing number of initiatives of devolution and demands of restitution of objects taken from colonial or analogous to colonial circumstances, from indigenous communities… How does Brazil figure? Does this country of continental proportions, rich and varied past, including approximately 2 million of original native population before the Portuguese arrival and 300 hundred years of colonial history have disputes or dialogues in course with foreign countries and institutions on this matter? Has Brazil been searching for, claiming back and repatriating its colonial or indigenous cultural objects abroad? Yes, it has. But why do we not hear about these cases? Who are the parties involved - the demanding ones and those to whom the demands are addressed? Can we outline their social, historical, institutional profile? How have the claims been made? Which political, ethical, historical, legal arguments have they used? How have the foreign parties in the discussion reacted? Have the demands been successful? Which were the consequences of the process for the party returning and the party receiving the cultural objects in question? This text aims to answer these questions, reassembling and analyzing the thus far known cases, thus making a panorama of the situation of the return of ethnological cultural objects in Brazil.

The return of a work of art or record.

to the country that created it enables.

that a people recover part of their memory and identity,

and proves that the long dialogue between civilizations.

that shapes the history of the world continues.

in an atmosphere of mutual respect between nations.

Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, Director-General of UNESCO, 1978.

This text was originally published in the Annals of the 1st International Congress on Urban Heritage of Humanity / 1st International Symposium on World Heritage of Minas Gerais  in the international context. UFJF. 2020.

Rodrigo Christofoletti Professor of Cultural Heritage at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora - UFJF. Coordinator of the Research Group on Heritage and International Relations - CNPq.

Vitória dos Santos Acerbi Master in International Relations from the Universidad de Salamanca.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

USD 16.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions


  1. 1.

    To name a few, Macron's 2013 speech announcing the intention to restore African countries to their cultural heritage present on French soil, and the report published as the first development of this process; the Colombian request to Spain for the return of 122 pieces of the Quimbaya treasure, begun in 2006; the Peruvian government's request to Yale University to return 46,332 objects from Machu Picchu, which finished in a memorandum of understanding and cooperation in 2011; the Greek demand to the British Museum for the restitution of Parthenon marbles.

  2. 2.

    In addition to these, there is also a single other collection of such masks, which can be found at the Munich Museum of Ethnology, resulting from the collection made by Spix and Martius, traveling through Brazil between 1817 and 1820. (note 37).


  • Albuquerque MC (2013) Entre nãos, sons e sins: atitudes educativas e vicissitudes do ser índio. In: XXVII SIMPÓSIO NACIONAL DE HISTÓRIA, 2013, Natal-RN. Anais do XXVII Simpósio Nacional de História

    Google Scholar 

  • Borges LC (2019) Relações político-culturais entre Brasil e Europa: o manto tupinambá e a questão da repatriação. Revista das Americas, v.15. 2013. Accessed 30 Mar 2020

  • Borges LC, Botelho MB (2010) Museus e restituição patrimonial – entre a coleção e a ética. In: XI ENCONTRO NACIONAL DE PESQUISA EM CIÊNCIA DA INFORMAÇÃO. Rio de Janeiro. Anais do XI Encontro Nacional de Pesquisa em Ciência da Informação. Rio de Janeiro, 2010. http.// Accessed 30 Jan 2020

    Google Scholar 

  • Brandão AC (2003) O museu na aldeia: comunicação e transculturalismo (o Museu Missionário Etnológico Colle Don Bosco e a aldeia Bororo de Meruri em diálogo). Tese (Doutorado em Comunicação e Semiótica) - Pontíficia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, São Paulo

    Google Scholar 

  • Carleton K (2010) Native American material heritage and the digital age: “virtual repatriation” and its implications for community knowledge sharing. Dissertação (Pós Doutorado em Antropologia) - Universidade de Michigan, Michigan, 2010. http: // Accessed 13 Jan 2020

    Google Scholar 

  • Carvalho A, Oliveira Silva DL, Braga GB (2014) Perspectivas recentes para curadoria de coleções etnográficas. Revista do Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia, São Paulo, v.14

    Google Scholar 

  • Christofoletti R (2017) O tráfico ilícito de bens culturais e a repatriação como reparação histórica. In: Christofoletti, Rodrigo. (org.) Bens culturais e relações internacionais: o patrimônio como espelho do soft power. Editora Universitária Leopoldianum: Santos

    Google Scholar 

  • Costa KL (2018) Pensar o patrimônio cultural por meio da repatriação e restituição de bens culturais. Patrimônio e Memória. São Paulo, v. 14, n. 2. 2, jul-dez

    Google Scholar 

  • Díaz MA (2011) Entre diálogos y repatriaciones. Reparación colonial por la memoria y preservación de Machu Picchu. Antípoda, n.12, Jan–Jun

    Google Scholar 

  • Fleck JP (2018) Da guerra para o museu: A tentativa de repatriação do canhão “El Cristiano. Trabalho de conclusão de curso (Museologia) - Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul

    Google Scholar 

  • Françozo M, Broekhoven L (2020) Dossiê Patrimônio indígena e coleções etnográficas. Boletim do Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi. Ciências Humanas. v. 12, n.3, Belém, 2017. http: // Accessed 20 Jan 2020

    Google Scholar 

  • Gomes IB (2014) Máscaras Jurupixuna - reflexão e proposta acto performativo etnográfico. Dissertação (Mestrado em Museologia e Museografia) - Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa

    Google Scholar 

  • Melo (2010) Kàjré: a vida social de uma machadinha Krahô. Dissertação (Mestrado em Antropologia Social) - Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Natal

    Google Scholar 

  • Prott LV (2008) The ethics and law of returns. In: (org) Return of cultural objects: the Athens Conference on the Return of cultural Objects to their Countries of Origins. v. 61, n°1–2, 2009. Atenas

    Google Scholar 

  • Prott L (2009) The History of Return of Cultural Objects. In: (org.). Witnesses to History: a compendium of documents and writings on the return of cultural objects. Paris: Unesco

    Google Scholar 

  • Robichez J (2015) A destruição deliberada do patrimônio cultural da humanidade nos conflitos armados como instrumento de aniquilamento da dignidade da pessoa humana a gênese da proteção jurídica do patrimônio cultural da humanidade. Revista Diálogos Possíveis, Salvador, Jan/Jun

    Google Scholar 

  • Santos B, de Sousa. (2006) A gramática do tempo. Cortez, São Paulo

    Google Scholar 

  • Thompson A (2013) Coleções etnográficas e Património Indígena. XXVII SIMPÓSIO NACIONAL DE HISTÓRIA: CONHECIMENTO HISTÓRICO E DIÁLOGO SOCIAL. Anais do XXVII Simpósio Nacional de História: Conhecimento histórico e diálogo social. Natal. Accessed 20 Feb 2020

  • Trindade JCF (2018) Restituição de Bens Patrimoniais em Portugal: Da década de 1980 à actualidade. Dissertação (Mestrado em História e Patrimônio) - Universidade do Porto, Porto

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rodrigo Christofoletti .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Christofoletti, R., dos Santos Acerbi, V. (2021). Brazil on the Circuit of International Cultural Relations: Return and Devolution of Ethnographic Goods. In: Christofoletti, R., Olender, M. (eds) World Heritage Patinas. The Latin American Studies Book Series. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics