Friday, 31 May 2013

In US, Houghtonism Gathers Strength

Arthur Houghton suggested in a comment on a recent blog post on CPO that various countries outside the USA should forfeit their rights to demand repatriation of illicit antiquities illegally removed from their territory "when they fail to take care of their own cultural patrimony". The kind of actions he has in mind are the "willful allowance and even encouragment of public and private construction that destroys their own historic past". Houghton says that "a new UNESCO resolution is needed here, one that would allow the divestment of cultural material from countries that act to destroy it". He proposes an amendment to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property that "would allow signatory states to impose draconian measures against State Parties that violate the intent of the Convention in this manner". Houghton suggested that "the idea can get real traction in certain political quarters [...] among friends in Washington".  Houghton now reports that he has "found significant support among very well connected political circles" for an "amendment the 1970 UNESCO Convention to this end".

Well-connected they may be, but whether from what Houghton implies, they actually have any idea of what is the "the intent of the Convention" is debatable. As I have pointed out, there is an unfortunate confusion in the American mind concerning what the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property is actually for. Obviously they are misled by the appearance of the words "pillage" and "protection of the archaeological record from construction activity" in the document's title.  It is rather unfair of UNESCO to give the document such a long title to confuse the dullards. Maybe somebody should get these "political circles"  interested in first making sure Art. 5f and Art 10b of the Convention they want to rewrite are being implemented in the USA. That might help remove the confusion being sown by the coiney and antiquitist lobbies.

The antiquitists are really so ridiculous. They cannot keep up any kind of logical discussion, because they keep switching tack as the wind blows. Look at the proposal, that any country that somebody (leaving aside just now who and how) determines is not protecting sites adequately from construction and the effects of economic development, should either forfeit some rights to the cultural property from their territory, or should actually have it taken away (dealer "AW" actually comes out and suggests by force).  Yet not a few days ago these very same people were arguing (and have an expensive court case staked on it) that since the no-questions-asked market wipes out collecting histories, it is (allegedly) impossible to say which country individual things came from (this was the argument they tried in the "Tarby" case too). They trot out their silly mantra that artefacts (in general actually is what they say) were "made to circulate" and frequently travelled far from where they were made to be used. That's what they say in one context, now how do they square that with saying they are going to take the cultural property of Wongawongaland because the Wongans are building too many houses over ancient field systems? How without proper collecting history records do they propose identifying Wongan artefacts from Wongawongaland for confiscation as opposed to Wongan (or Wongan-like) artefacts which were dug up in neighbouring Amnesia or Letheland but their collecting histories lost due to faulty documentation by the trade?  

If the doctrine of Houghtonism really is gaining strength in America, it says a lot about the type of people who hang out in "certain political circles". 

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