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Fogha MC Cornilius Refem

Doctoral Fellow


Campus Am Neuen Palais
Am Neuen Palais 10
Building 1, Room 0.15
14469 Potsdam


consulting hours
by appointment only

Dissertation Project

‘Ontologies In Conversation’: Restitution As A Cosmopolitan Practice

What this project seeks to do is to ‘Pivot the center’ and theorize from multiple angles so as to make new approaches, themes, and questions visible in the current debate for the restitution of objects looted from Africa during colonization. This work reads demands for the restitution of subjects looted during colonization as an articulation of an indigenous decolonial world-making agenda by centering indigenous worldmaking practices, research methodologies, and narratives of colonial violence as well as decolonization agendas, this work will also fundamentally address the epistemic violence inherent in museum practice and in Eurocentric mainstream narratives. In so doing, this research will look at how the memory of colonialism and the looting of/provenance of subjects is remembered in communities of origin, thus serving as a space where the community can represent and speak for itself and thus be allowed for an alternative narrative that does not immediately dismiss everything non-European as primitive. The current project responds to the lack of indigenous-centered scholarship that examines restitution as a decolonial agenda in indigenous world-making and as a cosmopolitan act. As a person from a community that has been actively engaged for decades in restitution claims for cultural subjects from Germany that were looted during colonization, I will trace the object biography, the present-day significance, and the agency of the subject. Yann Le Gall and Sebastien Sprute note that Ngonnso “ particular, illustrates the broad spectrum of possible thematic confrontations, including the object as a subject of current political power relations.” This thesis will therefore be concerned with examining: To what extent are the current restitution claims for Ngonnso' a manifestation of cosmopolitanism grounded in indigenous worldmaking? And to what extent can a new theory of cosmopolitanism be anchored on Nso ontologies?


Fogha Mc Cornilius Refem (aka Wan wo Layir) is a self-prescribed severe drapetomania “patient”. He is an in[ter]discipline[ed]ary artist and an academic nomad with a background in sociology, international relations, and social work. After completing his master's in social work at the Alice Salomon-Hochschule in Berlin with a focus on decolonizing social work practice and theory through what he called a ‘self-redemptive professional suicide’. He is a Humanity In Action Senior Fellow of the 2021 program and has participated in the untold stories project producing a short documentary about human zoos in Berlin.

Research Interests

  • Postcolonial Studies
  • Black empowerment
  • Decolonial futurities and thought
  • Anti-colonial unlearning
  • Critical museum studies


Wan wo Layir. (2022, August 18). » What I Have Learned From My Ban From The Humboldt Forum. Boasblogs. 

Wan wo Layir. (2022). The Palace we go to die: From Punitive Expeditions to Punitive Exhibitions

Goussanou, R., & Fogha Mc, C. R. [upcoming]. Les Objets En Excès: Les Sujets Réduits Et Les [Im]Possibilités De Décoloniser Les Musées.


Wan wo Layir (2022b, September 3). sonG witH nO choruS. BAZARANI. Berlin Forum Kolonialismus Und Widerstand.

Fogha Mc, C. R. (2022, August 30). Human Zoos: Enforced Silence. Humanity in Action . 4hytdyT&index=10

The Perversion Of Justice; Notes on Decolonizing Universities. Decolonize Berlin, Fachtag, Decolonize University. Berlin, 19 September 2022

Temporalities And Positions: Designing Decolonial Agendas. Humanity in Action International Conference Berlin. Berlin, July 2022

Wan wo Layir: [upcoming] We Simply Just Are: The ambivalence of being Black in Berlin