Friday, 31 May 2013

Scholar-Dealer Adrift

Over on a dugup dealers' lobbyist's blog near you a "scholar-dealer AW" seems to have problems posting his own comments. So Lobboblogger does it for him. This person prefers to hide behind initials, but it would be a fair guess who he in fact is. This guy enlarges on Arthur Houghton's Amerocentric doctrinal remarks on "what might be termed the casual destruction of ancient monuments" and its relation to the global no-questions-asked antiquities trade. He opines:
A real problem concerns the clear conflict that exists between the concepts of the "cultural heritage of mankind" (=CHM) and the "cultural heritage of country A, B, C, etc. (CHC)". If everything is thought of as being CHM the result would be clear: other countries or peoples (like the US State Department for example) could sound an alarm and act decisively to halt such destruction wherever it might occur. This could include the officially sanctioned use of force on recalcitrant people or governments.
Could it, indeed? "AW" claims that this "is the way some people, primarily archaeologists and their allies, seem to think". I really fail to see how he comes to that conclusion. I really cannot recall ever hearing a fellow archaeologist advocating calling in the US Marines with napalm-spurting helicopters or US political assassination drones as a means to defend the archaeological heritage. Not even a so-called "radical" one.

What is this guy talking about? He says that the 1970 UNESCO Convention does not sanction the notion of "cultural heritage of mankind". This "scholar-dealer" (sic) seems not really to have noticed that the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property has a whole preamble (referring among other things to the 'Declaration of Principles of International Cultural Co-operation' - see its article 1) in which the relationship between national responsibilities and global heritage seem to me to be adequately spelt out for the purpose of the Convention (that states parties protect the cultural heritage of states parties from removal as part of the global heritage). It would seem "AW" has skipped past the preamble to get to Article nine, which is a shame as he misses the point of what the document is about - once again arguing from fragments rather than a holistic treatment of the whole (the importance of "context" again). For "AW", the notion of "cultural heritage of mankind":
would allow any item of cultural heritage to be cared for virtually anywhere since it effectively would belong to us all.
Once again we find the collectors' lobby focussing on "ownership" rather than legitimate ownership. I, you and my cat can see - first of all from the very title of the document itself - that the 1970 UNESCO Convention is about "Illicit" activities (import, export and transfer of ownership) of artefacts, not at all who has what. "AW" cannot see that and gets lost in a cognitive labyrinth of his own making.

In reality it is only in the no-questions-asked dealers' little world  that there is any kind of "conflict" between nations helping each other to protect the heritage, and the US collectors' notion of "global heritage means I have the right to buy as much of it as I want, how I want".  It is these dealers and collectors who are creating any conflict.

Vignette: "Nomolypse Now", the US response in the cultural property war with the rest of the world? Surely not. 

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