Friday, 8 February 2013

Sayles Once Again on "Victimisation" of Coineys

In reply to a point I made earlier on this blog (to which he once again does not have the courtesy to direct his readers by a link) Wayne Sayles ("More from Barford about ACCG") whinges that his US dugup dealers' lobby group, the ACCG:
does not oppose the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act and never has.  What the guild opposes is the blatant disregard for provisions of that law by administrators who are charged with its implementation.  Consequently, the guild does not typically comment on MOU requests that lie outside of its area of specific knowledge and concern.
Because that alleged "blatant disregard for provisions of that law by administrators who are charged with its implementation" only exists when the smuggled heritage of coin-using cultures is being discussed? That those "administrators who are charged with implementation of the CCPIA" are intent on victimising just one segment of the artefact-using American public, the importers of dugup ancient coins without proper export licences? 

The coiney claims that in the US:
ancient coin collectors are more concerned than the general public about cultural property law violations [...] Collectors are typically passionate about their interests and the ACCG is no exception.  How many private citizens of ANY country woud dedicate as much time and energy to the preservation of longstanding rights and freedoms? 
I would say that the US understanding of "rights and freedoms" seems to differ from the rest of the world, in this - as in much other reas of social life. Perhaps we should note that most of those who stand up for rights and freedoms across the world (including opposing the spectre of US imposition) do so in defence of things other than their own selfish desires to be free to purchase illicit and smuggled artefacts taken from foreign lands.


Cultural Property Observer said...

You might also consider the views of former CPAC members Jay Kislak, Kate Fitz Gibbon and others expressed in public forums held by IFAR and the CPRI before you discount Mr. Sayles' words. I'm sure you are aware of what has been said though you may choose to discount it as well.

Paul Barford said...

Well, I think any article by the veteran coiney beginning with some puerile provocation on the lines of:

"In a recent blog post, Polish Archaeologist Paul Barford has offered yet another in a heartwarming string of compliments directed at the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild..." is asking to be discounted.

Frankly, from outside, there seem to a lot of us to be far more serious elements of US foreign policy to worry about than whether a few hundred blokes in creased suits can import smuggled coins or not. Political assassinations by drone attacks I'd say are but a symptom (whether or not POTUS uses them to kill his own citizens too). Secret CIA detention centres in my country are another. The use of military force and covert use of torture a third. I am sure I need not go on, you read the newspapers. But ALL of these (your coineyist whingings included) derive from a misplaced sense of entitlement which involves trampling over the rights and freedoms of others on this planet. Stealing somebody's heritage is of course not as bad as blowing up some guy in his house with his wife and kids and anybody who happens to be walking past at the time, but it's part of exactly the same ("I want, nothing can stop me") attitudes to the rest of the world.

I have only one interest in what Mr Kislak and Ms Fitz Gibbon say about the State Department or the President's decisions (or whoever). These are voices added to the growing swell of opinion that the CCPIA as it stands today in its increasingly anachronistic 1980s form is a broken act. It is demonstrably unable to actually "implement" the Convention in the USA (and here I have in mind precisely its Article 3) in the conditions of the antiquities market of the second decade of the 21st century.

Let us see the rewriting of the CCPIA in a more robust form to adequately face the task of putting the Convention into action, article 3 and all, in the case of antiquities exported from ALL source countries which are states parties to this Convention, not just some temporary and country-specific measures applied to petitioning states in order simply to look good. Nobody is being fooled.

Cultural Property Observer said...

The US only acceded to UNESCO with reservations, which were incorporated into the CPIA to ensure that the US would use its independent judgment concerning foreign demands for import restrictions. And why not? Why should the US automatically accept the broadest claims of foreign countries, particularly ones without democratic traditions or where corruption means that one law is applied to the little guy and another to the connected.

Unfortunately, the State Department bureaucracy, working hand in hand with archaeological groups like the AIA and CAARI with deep relations with foreign cultural bureaucracies, have read out all the limitations on their ability of the US to impose import restrictions under the CPIA. The point of the CPIA is to have balance between archaeological concerns and those of the art market. The problem as the ACCG and others see it is that the archaeological view has been allowed to predominate even where that means violating the clear language of the CPIA.

It sounds you don't like US foreign policy that much, but that of course is not what our blogs are about. And if you don't like US foreign policy, do you prefer those of Iran, Syria, Russia, or China? I'm not clear on that.

Paul Barford said...

I do not think you can look at the politics of the past as in anyway separate from current politics. America sets itself up as in some way morally superior which they then argue gives them the "rights and freedoms" to trample over everyone else and ignore what everybody else thinks. (the case of Palestine entering UNESCO by majority democratic decision and the US withdrawing funds in a huff).

Do you approve of arbitrary political assassinations by your country? Secret CIA prisons, the use of torture and the armed invasion of sovereign countries costing many thousands of lives and leading to nowhere? Stupid question I guess...

Paul Barford said...

Those "reservations" seriously undermine the effectiveness of action while enjoying the benefits of being a member. Membership of a mutual agreement intended to bring nations together should not be subject to whim and independent judgement of one of them when to do something to help, and when not. Either you are in and you are in, or you are operating outside it. The US is willfully stressing its own exemption, ignoring the nature and content of the Convention - to a degree unique among its 123 member states.

" The point of the CPIA is to have balance between archaeological concerns and those of the art market" what concerns are those - when we are talking SOLELY of the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and that basically means in this case whether an item has documentation of licit export from the source country or not? why would the "art market" be at all "concerned" that they are asked to play clean and only import stuff which they can show was licitly exported? This makes not a bit of sense UNLESS in fact that US art market in seeking its profits routinely relies on being able to import stuff without bothering to differentiate what is smuggled and what is not. That is the ONLY real reason I can see why your art market might be "concerned", that playing clean with the rest of the world might cut their profits.

If that is so, then what that would mean is that the CPAC is a Presidential committee set up to make sure the interests of smugglers and profiteers are in the "balance".

The language of the CCPIA is far from "clear" as you have pointed out yourself. It's a crappy, anachronistic and largely ineffectual piece of legislation and should go on the scrapheap and be replaced by one far more effective for the purpose which is Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property across the borders of and within the United States of America. Period, as they say.

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