Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster logo

Arts & Science Program

First-year Arts & Science Capstone Project: Rameesha Ahmad

Rameesha Ahmad

Rameesha Ahmad smiling

Winter 2024 Capstone Project Title: A Never Ending Game of Tug-of-War: Artifact Repatriation and the British Museum

Project Description: My capstone delves into the contentious debate on artifact repatriation by exploring its intersections with justice, national identity, and educational accessibility. By examining contemporary examples within their historical contexts, I intend to highlight the ethical complexities regarding the return of cultural objects in the current nation-state system. This paper challenges the ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution that repatriation is often framed as while also acknowledging the role it can play in decolonization. Through considering the interests of numerous stakeholders, this capstone attempts to offer a nuanced perspective on a highly polarized debate.

The 1C06 Capstone experience: Over the winter break, I stumbled across a rant that expressed discontent over the continued possession of stolen artifacts in western museums. It had detailed many dubious collecting practices, calling for repatriation as a means of writing historical wrongs. Emotion had pulled me into this debate; anger from the chains of theft, sympathies to the harmed parties, and a desire for justice that had united thousands against imperial museum institutions. The answer to my question initially felt obvious; however, as I began my research, I quickly learned that an easy solution to this problem was not present. I observed incredibly insightful arguments from both sides, spent many weeks internally debating myself, before I realized I would not be able to argue just one side. I realized that the “yes/no” binary enforced in repatriation debates was limiting these discussions. Writing this paper has taught me to abandon the strictly persuasive style of writing and to begin opting for a structure that encourages a nuanced understanding of the topic at hand.

Click here to read interviews with the other first year Arts & Science students.