Wednesday 5 June 2013

Is it just "Size" that Matters, Mr Tompa?

The Cultural Property Observer blog has a big thing on a letter James Fitzpatrick, senior partner at Arnold and Porter LLP in Washington* sent to the CPAC about the size of the internal Chinese market in relation to US import restrictions on illegally exported (nota bene). Both Mr Fitzpatrick and CPO seem to see the acquisition of Chinese cultural property as some kind of competition.  They argue that restricting the import of illegal exports gives the slanty-eyed Chinese foreigners some kind of an "unfair advantage" over American citizens in this competition. They say this is wrong and anti-American. I'd say they need to look a little more deeply at what the 1970 UNESCO Convention exists (clue is in the title) and whether it is there to give one overseas nation an advantage over another in the grabbing and hoarding of another nation's cultural heritage, or is it actually about something else?

As an observer, it seems to me that there are grounds for suggesting that - though they may try to deny this - the whole problem with American collectors, dealers and museums is a deep-rooted insecurity which has its foundations in the perceived threat of isolation from tangible connection with some kind of imagined roots for their own invented society in another cultural circle ("Rabid Arguments in US Antiquity Collecting" Tuesday, 21 May 2013). A while ago it was fashionable among the lobbyists for no-questions-asked commerce in dugup antiquity to talk of "cultural property nationalism", they've stopped that nonsense now, but if they want to make some excursions into cultural theory, they'd still do well to look up the whole issue of cultural nationalism and see how that reflects on their own cravings for artefacts from other countries, whether legally exported or not. 

 CPO: "More on the Size of the Internal Chinese Market for Antiquities", Wednesday, June 5, 2013

*Mr Fitzpatrick is the author of the notorious Stealth UNIDROIT: Is USIA the Villain?
NYU Journal of International Law and Policy, vol. 31 (1998), 47.

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