Geschiedenis in overheidsopdracht: wetenschap, ethiek en politiek in de Belgische Lumumba-commissie | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 125, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163


This article discusses the Belgian parliamentary commission of inquiry (2000-02) that investigated Belgium’s role in the murder of the Congolese prime minister Patrice Lumumba in 1961. Although there is a long tradition of parliamentary inquiries in Belgium, the Lumumba Commission was relatively unusual because it focused on an older past and subcontracted a substantial part of its research to a group of academic experts. Supporters of this commissioned history pre-empted possible criticism of the politicisation of academics by stressing that there had been a clear division of labour between experts and politicians. However, it is argued here that this distinction between academia and politics was more problematic than it seemed. Two theses are defended: first that the Commission was not directed primarily to produce new knowledge, but instead (political) ‘acknowledgement’. Rather than as a substantial contribution to historiography, the work of the commission is considered here primarily as a ‘translationstruggle’ in which existing historiography was restyled to fit the procedure of parliamentary decision-making. In this ‘translation-struggle’ – the article’s second thesis – no clear line can be drawn between the work of the experts and that of the parliamentarians. On many levels the experts did more political work than the politicians. However, this did not result from partisanship by the experts, nor active interference by the politicians, but from attitudes of the experts: they (probably unconsciously) appropriated some of the meta-political values and the habitus of their law-making employers. This had a number of negative effects which are analyzed further.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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