Alumni Fellow

Dr Sarah Van Beurden

Alumni Fellows

Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research
Schifferstraße 44
47059 Duisburg

Tel: +49 (0)203 379-5230
Fax: +49 (0)203 379-5276
E-mail: vanbeurden@spam


Dr. Sarah van Beurden joined Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research as a Fellow. She conducted her research in Research Unit 2 “Global Cultural Conflicts and Transcultural Cooperation” from July to December 2013.

Research Project at the Centre

Postcolonial Cultures of Cooperation: Belgium, Congo and the Rise of an International Conservation Regime

This project proposes the exploration of the history of postcolonial cooperation and aid, using the case study of cultural cooperation between Belgium and its former colony Congo (today’s Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly also known as Zaire), specifically their collaboration in the creation of an Institute for National Museums in the Congo. An important catalyst for this cultural cooperation was the emergence of an ‘international conservation regime,’ headed by UNESCO, which provided regulations for the protection and restitution of cultural property. This project will place the Belgian-Congolese cooperation in the context of demands for the restitution of museum collections composed of Congolese art objects made by Congo during the process of decolonization. These demands are an important indicator of the opposing interpretations both parties held of the cultural cooperation that followed. How are we to interpret this postcolonial case of cultural cooperation?  Can we read it as a neocolonial form of cultural guardianship on the part of Belgium, an example of the impact of the rise of an UNESCO-led international legal regime, or as the result of the effective cultural politics of the Zairian Mobutu regime?

Research Interests

  • Modern African History
  • Colonial and Postcolonial Studies
  • Transnational History
  • Museum and Material Culture Studies

Current Projects

  • Postcolonial Cultures of Cooperation: Belgium, Congo and the Rise of an International Conservation Regime
  • "African History and the Trend of Transnationalism" (article)
  • "Authentically African: Arts and the Transnational Politics of Congolese Culture" (book manuscript, going under review in Spring 2013)
  • "The Art of Independence: African Art and American Audiences (1957-75)" (book manuscript)


Since 2009 Ohio State University
Department of African and African American Studies
Affiliated with the Departments of History and Arts History
Spring 2010 University of Texas at Austin
Institute for Historical Studies
Postdoctoral Fellow
Summer 2009 University of Pennsylvania
Ph.D., History
2006 Institut des Musées Nationaux, Kinshasa-Lubumbashi, Congo
Visiting Scholar
01/2006-03/2006 Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC
National Museum of African Art
Visiting Scholar
2000-2002 Lehigh University, USA
MA in American Studies
2000 Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
MA in Modern History, BA in Modern European History

Selected Publications

Van Beurden, Sarah: The Value of Art: Congolese Art and the Promotion of Belgian Colonialism (1945-1959), History and Anthropology (forthcoming)

Van Beurden, Sarah (2013): Review of: Selling the Congo: A History of European Pro-Empire Propaganda and the Making of Belgian Imperialism, by Matthew G. Stanard, University of Nebraska Press, 2012, in: H-France Review Vol. 13 (April 2013), No. 42

Van Beurden, Sarah (2012): Forty years of IMNC: 11 March 1970-11 March 2012, in: African Arts, Vol. 45, no. 4. (Nov 2012): pp. 90-93

Van Beurden, Sarah (2011): African Art at the Museum of Primitive Art, Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports, Vol. 2010/2011, (Nov 2011), pp. 1-7

Van Beurden, Sarah (2011): Review of: Gender and Decolonization in the Congo: The Legacy of Patrice Lumumba, by Karen Bouwer, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, in: Research in African Literatures, Volume 42, Number 4, Winter 2011, pp. 138-139

Van Beurden, Sarah (2009): 'Un Panorama de Nos Valeurs Africaines': Belgisch Kongo op Expo ‘58 (A Panorama of our African values: Belgian Congo on the Worldexposition of 1958), in: Vincent Viaene / Bambi Ceuppens / David Van Reybrouck (eds.): Congo in België. Coloniale Cultuur in de Metropool

Teaching Responsibilities

The Ohio State University, Department of African American and African Studies (Fall 2009-):

  • Modern African History
  • Pre-colonial African History
  • Introduction to African Art (in preparation)
  • Pan-Africanism and Nationalism
  • Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora
  • Arts and Cultures of Africa and the Diaspora
  • Topics in African History: Africa and the Politics of Culture (graduate level)
  • Transnational History of the African World (graduate level, in preparation)

University of Leuven, Department of History (Spring 2008):

  • Geschiedenis van de Verenigde Staten (History of the United States)

University of Pennsylvania:

  • Lecturer, College of General Studies: “The World: History and Modernity (Summer 2005)
  • Teaching Assistant, Department of History (Fall 2003-Spring 2005)
  • Writing Tutor Writing Across the University Program (WATU) (2003-2004)

Seminars and Conferences

  • "Afrique: Musées et Patrimoines pour quels Publics?", pedagogic and scientific workshop Musée National de Lubumbashi, DRC Congo, 21-25 March 2006
  • "Ethnohistory Program", interdisciplinary workshop series, University of Pennsylvania, 2006-2007 and 2008-2009
  • "The Value of Culture: Congolese Arts and the Promotion of Belgian Colonialism (1945-1959)", invited Lecture for "African Art History and Visual Culture", Department of Art History, Denison University, 23 April 2013
  • "The Value of Culture: Congolese Arts and the Promotion of Belgian Colonialism (1945-1959)", Brown Bag Lecture, Department of African American and African Studies, Ohio State University
  • "Traditional Cultures in a Modern Colony: The Museum of the Belgian Congo and the Politics of the Late Colonial Era (1946-1959)", Panel "Congo and the Politics of Culture” (panel organizer), Africa Studies Association UK meeting, September 2012
  • "L’Afrique… et après? Teaching French-Speaking Africa & African Topics to Post-Teenaged American Youngsters", roundtable discussion, African Studies Association Meeting, November 2011
  • “African History and the Trend of Transnationalism”, Panel "African World Histories", American Historical Association meeting, January 2011
  • "The Art of (Re) Possession: Zaire, Belgium and the Case of Cultural Restitution", Decolonization and Independence Conference, University of Texas, Austin, April 2010


  • AHA (American Historical Association)
  • ASA (African Studies Association)
  • ACASA (Arts Council of the African Studies Association)
  • Congolese Studies Association (vice-president)
  • Congo Research Network (
  • Founding member of ATTITUDE (Association Congolaise pour le Développement Artistique et Culturel), a Kinshasa-based organization for the promotion of young Congolese artists

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