Saturday 27 July 2013

US Lobbyist: Second Best Good Enough for Brown-Skinned Folk

 Peter Tompa, Washington Lobbyist on behalf of the dugup and knocked-off antiquities trade, sent  the following comment to the article on the "Chasing Aphrodite" blog "At Looted Temple In India, Locals Unwittingly Worship a Fake":
I’m not sure I understand the point of your headline. Presumably, the worshipers view the statue as a manifestation of God. Whether that statue was made 900 years ago or last week is likely of little relevance to them on that basis (July 24, 2013 at 8:27 am)
So what he's saying is that, in his educated western opinion, the brown-skinned Worshipping Oriental Gentlemen of Vriddachalam temple in Tamil Nadu really should not even consider it at all disturbing that,  in a distant secular and profane context to which many of them will never even have access, western tourists and connoisseurs are enjoying the original 'manifestation of god' removed from the sacral complex. I am sure the Washington observer would continue that they are after all only pig-ignorant, culturally insensitive idol-worshippers less worthy of great art than the white folk with their museums and different beliefs. That seems to me to be the train of thought revealed by that comment. Tompa assumes that "such people" should not even notice the difference, and have no claims on the object they lost - which now enhances the lives of others. This is exactly what Donna Yates was talking about in the context of the looted objects she studies:
The illicit antiquities trade is a prime example of neocolonialism. When objects are stolen from vulnerable areas of the developing world and moved into the hands of rich people in the developed world, we perpetuate an unjust imbalance. We keep people down.
Tompa is engaged in keeping down the brown-skinned worshipping oriental gentlemen of Vriddachalam temple in Tamil Nadu, not leaving them the option of rising up and asking for their statue back. In the eyes of adherents of the neocolonialist model of knocked-off-art-appreciation,  they are "ignorant natives" whose unsophisticated needs should be satisfied with second best.



Cultural Property Observer said...

Sounds like you are once again pushing your own secular archaeology over all religion on the rest of us. No thanks.

Paul Barford said...

Top marks to the lawyer for his cultural sensitivity.

Paul Barford said...

Peter, why do you assume "these believers" care about anything other than what the rest of us care about? Just because they do not live in Washington, does it make them inferior in some way to you? Less "worldly"? Less worthy of any consideration? It seems to me that such attitudes towards an "Other" underlie the whole issue with antiquity collecting, attitudes of disregard, contempt and entitlement.

It is not "archaeology" anyone here is advocating, but common decency, something that seems to be lacking in many dealings of dealers and collectors of the so-called "developed" world with the cultural property (including, as here, religious artefacts) of others.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Common decency is what is in short supply on this blog. I think you are reading far more into what I stated, for your own purposes, and again in the most insulting way possible.

Paul Barford said...

No, I think that the only possible interpretation of what you said was highly insulting. Which is why I pointed it out. You may care to rephrase what you said.

There is no common decency in the no-questions-asked antiquities market, nor among the strategies of those that choose to lobby on its behalf. Let's call a spade a spade.

And Mr Tompa... stop playing the victim when somebody takes you up on what you write. That is just metal-detectorist-pathetic. It is clear that your whole purpose is to provoke. Why the angst when you succeed in making somebody very angry with what you say?

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