Jonathan is Head (Museumsleiter) of the Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, a post he has held since January 2020. Before assuming this leadership position, he was the curator for the collections from West Africa, Cameroon, Gabon, and Namibia at the Ethnologisches Museum and was speaker of the museum’s working group on provenance research.
Jonathan completed his dissertation, entitled The Throne from the Grassfields: History, Gifts, and Authenticity in the Bamum Kingdom, 1880–1929, in 2020. The study examines a small iconic group of thrones from the largest kingdom in Western Cameroon and traces their histories through the complex and violent pre-colonial and colonial contexts of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is currently working on a project on the global history of restitution and the return of cultural objects.
Jonathan holds B.A.s from the University of Chicago and Cambridge, an M.A. from Stanford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. His work on African art grows out of his legal work, which, in part, concerned disputed territory in Africa and the litigation of human rights and constitutional issues in United States courts.
Jonathan has held numerous fellowships, including a Jacob Javits Fellowship and a Federal Chancellor’s Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. His projects for digitizing museum collections and archival materials have been funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Ernst-von-Siemens-Kunststiftung. He also has received support from the Gerda Henkel Foundation for confronting Germany’s colonial past in Namibia and returning cultural objects to Namibia for research with local communities.
Jonathan is the secretary of the Benin Dialogue Group. He is a member of the German Museums’ Association working group on collections from colonial contexts and an author of the Association’s Guidelines on the Care of Collections from Colonial Contexts.