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Cultural Heritage Ethics

Cultural Heritage Ethics: Between Theory and Practice

Edited by Constantine Sandis
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    Cultural Heritage Ethics
    Book Description:

    Theory without practice is empty, practice without theory is blind, to adapt a phrase from Immanuel Kant. The sentiment could not be truer of cultural heritage ethics. This intra-disciplinary book bridges the gap between theory and practice by bringing together a stellar cast of academics, activists, consultants, journalists, lawyers, and museum practitioners, each contributing their own expertise to the wider debate of what cultural heritage means in the twenty-first century. Cultural Heritage Ethics provides cutting-edge arguments built on case studies of cultural heritage and its management in a range of geographical and cultural contexts. Moreover, the volume feels the pulse of the debate on heritage ethics by discussing timely issues such as access, acquisition, archaeological practice, curatorship, education, ethnology, historiography, integrity, legislation, memory, museum management, ownership, preservation, protection, public trust, restitution, human rights, stewardship, and tourism. This volume is neither a textbook nor a manifesto for any particular approach to heritage ethics, but a snapshot of different positions and approaches that will inspire both thought and action. Cultural Heritage Ethics provides invaluable reading for students and teachers of philosophy of archaeology, history and moral philosophy – and for anyone interested in the theory and practice of cultural preservation.

    eISBN: 978-1-78374-069-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Political Science, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
    Constantine Sandis
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Constantine Sandis

    Theory without practice is empty, practice without theory is blind, to adapt a phrase from Immanuel Kant. Cultural heritage ethics has certainly suffered from such a dichotomy. This book seeks to bridge the gap between theory and practice through conversations which promote the awareness and debate of difficult questions, collectively pointing to a just medium between academic and vocational approaches.

    The intra-disciplinary essays that follow have been written by academics, consultants, journalists, lawyers, and museum practitioners. I have divided them into four sections: (i) meaning and memory; (ii) history and archaeology; (iii) ownership and restitution; and (iv) management and protection....

  7. I. Meaning and Memory

    • 1. Culture, Heritage, and Ethics
      (pp. 11-20)
      Constantine Sandis

      Heritage is that which has been or may be inherited, regardless of its value. Unfortunately, the term ‘heritage’ (the thirteenth-century English word is derived from the Latinhaeres, meaning heir or heiress) is nowadays frequently used for purposes best described as touristic, to sell everything from beer and tomatoes to cars, gardens, and hotels. It is possible to think of some of this heritage as non-cultural, or perhaps even anti-cultural. An even more plausible contender for this last set would be hooliganism, yet this is unlikely to feature in British magazines about heritage such asHeritage,Discover Britain, orBritish...

    • 2. Poppy Politics: Remembrance of Things Present
      (pp. 21-30)
      James Fox

      In October 2011 the English football association requested permission from FIFA (the International Football Federation) for its national team to wear poppies on their shirts when they played Spain the following month. Poppies had been worn across Britain every November for the best part of a century, having been an integral part of the nation’s remembrance of its war dead since 1921. FIFA, however, was unmoved by such traditions, and immediately rejected the request. In an official statement the organisation asserted that in line with its existing regulations, players’ equipment could not ‘carry any political, religious or commercial messages’ for...

    • 3. The Meaning of the Public in an Age of Privatisation
      (pp. 31-40)
      Benjamin Ramm

      In an interview withThe Sunday Timesin 1981, Margaret Thatcher declared her intention: ‘Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul’. The culture of competition that drove the New Right’s revolution may not have altered our souls, but it did change how we perceive ourselves, at least in relation to our fellow citizens. This chapter will explore how aspects of civic culture have taken on radical meaning in the age of neoliberalism, and consider how we can rediscover the ‘civic soul’.

      To diagnose the crisis of the public, it is necessary to understand why,...

  8. II. History and Archaeology

    • 4. History as Heritage: Producing the Present in Post-War Sri Lanka
      (pp. 43-56)
      Nira Wickramasinghe

      Walter Benjamin warned against the ‘appreciation of heritage’, describing it as a greater ‘catastrophe’ than indifference or disregard.³ Indeed, heritage can be considered an essentially cultural practice centred in the present, and an instrument of cultural power. Cultural heritage is as much a construction of the present as it is an interpretation of the past.

      The changing fortunes and popularity of historical sites indicate that no specific place is inherently valuable as heritage. There is therefore no heritage per se and all heritage, as Laurajane Smith argues, is ultimately intangible.⁴ What make sites valuable are the contemporary cultural interpretations and...

    • 5. Looking at the Acropolis of Athens from Modern Times to Antiquity
      (pp. 57-102)
      William St Clair

      The Acropolis of Athens is one of the most famous places on earth, visited by over a million people every year, and instantly recognisable by millions more who know it only from pictures. With posters and postcards displayed in every street kiosk and hotel lobby in Athens, and countless images encountered in books, films, television, brochures, advertising, and social media in countries round the world, it must now be impossible for any visitor, whether a Greek child on a first educational visit or a stranger from a distant land, to look at the Acropolis without feeling that, in some sense,...

    • 6. South Asian Heritage and Archaeological Practices
      (pp. 103-116)
      Sudeshna Guha

      Studies of the histories of heritage inevitably lead us to disciplinary introspection. As with the scholarship of heritage studies elsewhere, research into South Asian heritage has developed from considerations of tangible heritage, and through a focus on the social biographies of historical monuments, built environments and landscape. Academic projects are fed by the non-academic ‘heritage industry’ in which civilisational histories are routinely invented and used as commercial capital for the global market through the creation, circulation and display of ‘historically seminal monuments’. An apt example is the replication of the second-century BC Buddhiststupaat Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh, India) as...

    • 7. The Ethics of Digging
      (pp. 117-128)
      Geoffrey Scarre

      Sir Thomas Browne’s account of the chance discovery and thoughtless destruction of Roman sepulchral urns near Brampton in Norfolk is the stuff of archaeologists’ nightmares. Fortunately, this particular story had a happy ending: following the antiquarian knight’s arrival on the scene several more urns were unearthed, which Browne carefully described in what amounts to an early example of an archaeological report. We can only speculate how much of the English archaeological record disappeared in similar incidents over the centuries but vast quantities of ancient material must have been destroyed by the ignorant or the uninterested. The rise of antiquarianism in...

  9. III. Ownership and Restitution

    • 8. ‘National’ Heritage and Scholarship
      (pp. 131-134)
      John Boardman

      The debate over the handling and publication of ancient artefacts acquired through channels other than official excavation has raged for over fifty years. The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property¹ has effectively increased the value of objects known before 1970 but done nothing to halt the acquisition and marketing of objects ‘recovered’ since that date, although there are a few inhibitions about the way they are marketed. Robbing graves probably ranks alongside other ‘oldest professions’ of the world, although nowadays it is often accidental, and...

    • 9. Fear of Cultural Objects
      (pp. 135-148)
      Tom Flynn

      This paper seeks to read some of the current disputes about the collecting of cultural heritage through an analysis ofFurcht(Fear). This little-known silent film of 1917 by the German director Robert Wiene (1873-1938), who went on to makeThe Cabinet of Dr Caligari(1920), is regarded as one of the most influential examples of German expressionist cinema. InFear, a wealthy German Count returns home from India with a statuette he has stolen from a temple and thereafter gradually descends into a state of guilt-ridden paranoia over his acquisition.

      The fear to which the title refers is ostensibly generated...

    • 10. Restitution
      (pp. 149-168)
      Mark Jones

      In considering the thorny questions of restitution it may be helpful to begin with some recent examples of restitution in action, to see if the practice and principles enunciated to support, or implicit in, these cases have a bearing on the yet more controversial areas in which claims for restitution remain contentious.

      On St Andrews Day 1996, a rectangular block of sandstone, ‘The Stone of Destiny’, was formally installed in Edinburgh Castle. This act of restitution was intended symbolically and really to undo the actions of Edward I of England ‘Hammer of the Scots’ who, seven hundred years earlier in...

  10. IV. Management and Protection

    • 11. The Possibilities and Perils of Heritage Management
      (pp. 171-180)
      Michael F. Brown

      After two decades of spirited debate about the fate of cultural heritage in a shrinking, commodifying world, a few things seem settled. One is that the unsanctioned appropriation of cultural assets by outsiders is unjust and unethical, especially when undertaken by a more powerful group. It perpetrates an economic injustice because the stewards of an ancient song, art form, or useful element of traditional knowledge are denied whatever profits those cultural resources may accrue in the marketplace. Worse still, the act of tearing cultural elements from their original context may change their meaning, even to those who created them. When...

    • 12. Values in World Heritage Sites
      (pp. 181-196)
      Geoffrey Belcher

      It is helpful to begin with an explanation of the concept and evolution of ‘World Heritage’ as adopted by UNESCO, the United Nations Environmental, Social and Cultural Organisation which is ‘building peace in the minds of men and women’.

      In the late 1950s, after the building of the Aswan Dam flooded the Nile Valley, destroying many ancient sites, international concern about places of world significance focused on Egypt. Among the country’s countless historic sites, the most famous was the temple of Abu Simbel, with its four giant statues of the great pharaoh Rameses II. As a result of the concerns...

    • 13. Safeguarding Heritage: From Legal Rights over Objects to Legal Rights for Individuals and Communities?
      (pp. 197-204)
      Marie Cornu

      Heritage protection for the twenty-first century is clearly an issue that raises a number of questions – regarding the very concept of cultural heritage, and how the law embraces that concept and sets its boundaries; regarding the fundamental purpose – to preserve and pass on – implied by the word ‘heritage’; regarding the multiple legal environments at the regional, national and international levels in which heritage law stands. Legally, there are many different ways to organise the connection between memory, history and heritage and, in this respect, diversity rules.

      Cultural heritage law is a large body of legislation which was developed relatively recently....

  11. Appendix: Links to Selected International Charters and Conventions on Cultural Heritage
    (pp. 205-206)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-209)