9 June 2021

Vanessa Tünsmeyer Receives Canon Foundation Grant for Research on Ainu Heritage & Rights


Dr Vanessa Tünsmeyer has been selected as a Canon Foundation Fellow for her research project on Ainu indigenous rights and cultural heritage. The grant will enable her to conduct community engaged research with the Ainu communities in Hokkaido, Japan, for a period of one year. Prof. Hirofumi Kato and the Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies of Hokkaido University will host her during this visit, and the project is designed to establish sustainable collaborations with Japanese and Ainu researchers.

Dr Vanessa Tünsmeyer combines research of cultural heritage law and practice with a focus on international human rights law. One of her areas of interest are indigenous rights and the repatriation of indigenous cultural heritage. The indigenous communities of Japan have been repeatedly discriminated against, and their human rights violated. The need for improvements in the protection of indigenous rights in Japan has also been remarked upon by a number of UN human rights organs. In recent years there have been some very tentative first steps towards this, notably in the area of Ainu heritage. Repatriation in Japan has so far been mostly focused on human remains, omitting cultural heritage. Connected rights that would strengthen cultural self-determination, for example language protection, have not been established. The research project is designed in a collaborative manner to both establish the most pressing human rights needs of communities from a legal perspective, as well as to increase awareness of existing rights and comparable standards within the community.