Sarah Van Beurden

Sarah Van Beurden

Sarah Van Beurden

Associate Professor of History and African and African American Studies


486G University Hall
230 N. Oval Mall
Columbus, OH 43210

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  • Ph.D., History, University of Pennsylvania
  • M.A., American Studies, Lehigh University
  • M.A., Modern History, University of Leuven, Belgium
  • B.A., Modern History, University of Leuven, Belgium


Sarah Van Beurden is a historian of colonial and postcolonial central Africa. She is interested in the ways culture is constructed, represented, and used in political contexts and has published on the history of museums, art restitution, decolonization, heritage and conservation politics, and the history of anthropology and art history. Her book, Authentically African: Arts and the Transnational Politics of Congolese Culture (New African Histories Series, Ohio University Press, 2015) investigates the role of museum politics in the legitimation of the Belgian colonial regime and the postcolonial Mobutu regime in Congo/Zaire. It tells a new history of decolonization as a struggle over cultural categories, the possession of cultural heritage, and the right to define and represent cultural identities. Her work has appeared in journals such as The Journal of African History, History and Anthropology, Radical History Journal, and African Arts. Her current research focuses on the history of cultural planning, craft economies, and art education in central Africa. She is a frequent media contributor on topics such as African art restitution and Belgian colonialism and its legacies.

Van Beurden has held fellowships at the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas in Austin, the Käte Hamburger Kolleg and Centre for Global Cooperation Research at University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany) and at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, where she was a member of the “Histories of Planning” workgroup from 2014 until 2018.

At The Ohio State University, she is an associate professor of History and African American and African Studies, and she is an affiliated faculty member of the Department of History of Art.

Faculty Links

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)
Department web page 

Media Links

Africa is a Country: Renovating the AfricaMuseum (2019)
Origins: Who Owns the Past? (2019)
Origins: A New Congo Crisis? (2018)
Le Monde: La restitution du patrimoine africain doit être un point de départ (2018)
Uber Diesen Blog: The pitfalls of ‘shared heritage’ (2018)

Mershon Project

Congo Crafted: The Political History of an Art Economy (2018-19)