Free Custom «Cultural Properties» Essay Sample

Free Custom «Cultural Properties» Essay Sample

1. Looking at the Return of Plundered Cultural Properties

a. Cultural Nationalism

Nationalism largely takes a political dimension. However, in the present day, cultural nationalism takes the form of mass re-assertion on matters pertaining more to culture rather than politics (Merryman, 1986). The sense of identity leans towards aspects that are deemed to be under threat. The feeling emanates from ordinary people and coalesces around them. Unlike political nationalism, cultural nationalism does not take a more revolutionary approach (Merryman, 1986). However, the latter can eventually influence the former.

The United Kingdom is among the countries that have witnessed cultural nationalism. British citizens feel that their sense of identity is under threat (Poulton, 2011). Large-scale immigration of Muslims into the country is one of the factors that influence the development of such nationalism. Muslims come with radical ideas, an aspect that is manifested in the country given that their small percentage (4%) in the country has not deterred them from leaving a mark nationally (Poulton, 2011). The role of the European Union is also evident. The large organization has invaded the UK, posing a threat to the country’s culture. For instance, the use of the British Pound is threatened. Cultural nationalism takes different forms across countries. However, it borders on the manifestation of historical ties and future aspirations.


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b. Cultural Internationalism

Reference to the idealist view of international relations demonstrates that international associations are founded based on competition rather than cultural matters. Cultural internationalism borders on an attempt to develop a cultural understanding, cooperation, and shared values spanning across state boundaries through lectures, student exchanges, and other integration mechanisms (Merryman, 2005). Thus, the latter form of culture is reflective of the 21st century mode of engagement among international actors.

Culture is viewed as an element of national power. Thus, realists must acknowledge it. However, attaining cultural universalism is a difficult task given the context of liberalism that characterizes political and economic institutions. Corr (1998) noted that culture had been used as a weapon in the past by countries such as Japan and Germany during the war years. The same has been applied in the developing world, often degenerating into multiculturalism that emphasizes particularism as opposed to universalism. Thus, the argument in support of a presence of cultural internationalism rests on the achievements of globalization on economic liberalization and the expansion of the democratic ideology of governance.

  1. The British Museum (Plundered Cultural Properties of Other Countries)

Culture is an integral part of people’s life. In the past, during the colonial era, the imperialists forcefully took cultural items from the conquered states. Time has passed, and the victim countries present their cases demanding the return of the stolen items. Some of the states include Egypt and Greece that had lost valuable cultural artifacts in the past.

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a. Pantheon Marbles (Greece)

Early in the 19th century, Lord Elgin, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, documented sculptures in Parthenon in Athens, making them into moulds and casts (Fagan, 2006). The ambassador also engaged Turkish officials to allow him excavate large volumes of marbles that were eventually shipped to Britain. Of concern is that Lord Elgin had bribed the officers in order to plunder the country’s treasures (Fagan, 2006). In any case, bribery is an unbecoming behavior that is the least expected to come from a high-ranking government official.

During the Second World War, large-scale looting also took place in Greece. As already observed, plundering the occupied countries’ resources is unwarranted under any circumstances. Hence, it is difficult to explain why the British were allowed to get away with other states’ property during the 19th century. Britain should have recognized its mistake, and returned the marbles at the 2012 Olympic Games. Such a gesture would have eased the pain of Greece at being robbed of its treasures. The implication is that until this time, Britain is in support of cultural vandalism.

The primary reason the British have refused to return the marbles is the imperialistic stance of Great Britain (Fagan, 2006). It is noted that during the extraction of the marbles, the British left much damage on the original structures. The circumstances under which the items were transferred to the UK also remain dubious. The imperialist, Lord Elgin, took the stones for individual gain because later, he sold them to the British government.

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In the current times, the rule of law is a major feature of governance. Thus, any aggrieved party in a transaction can seek justice by filing a suit in the courts of law. It remains interesting that the Greek government or other organizations from Greece have never instituted legal means to redress the situation (Fagan, 2006). In such a scenario, cultural nationalism fails in the country. In particular, the failure by the country to move to the courts is an indication that perhaps, Lord Elgin had not looted, but acquired the marbles using the due process of law. Proponents of cultural internationalism would argue that Elgin did much good to the world by acquiring the marbles and preserving them for the future. As an admirer of classic art, Lord Elgin paid for any piece he had acquired.

The argument that Elgin acquired the items legally is debatable. To begin with, the Ottomans were occupiers of Greece (Fagan, 2006). Given that at the time of the acquisition of the marbles, the Greeks were not in charge, any argument that the items were bought following the right procedure is flawed. More to say, the permit given bordered on taking some stones instead of what happened which was plundering and destroying the Parthenon. In case there was a need to protect the structure, Lord Elgin ought to have taken it wholly instead of demolishing it. In brief, the legal argument in support of the marbles being in the British museums cannot be sustained. Refusal to reclaim the stones is an affront on the Greece’s national culture given that they are part of the country’s heritage.

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The controversy surrounding the issue is further escalated. For instance, many observers indicate that the Parthenon sculptures ought to be taken back to Greece because many activists indicate that Elgin had stolen the artifacts. Based on the account of the former ambassador, he had permission to do so (Fagan, 2006). Back then, the Acropolis was a military zone with strictly implemented movement restrictions. Given the public nature of the removal of the pieces of art, there is no possibility that they were stolen (Fagan, 2006). However, as observed earlier, the argument is that at the time of the removal of the stones, the Greeks were under external leadership. Hence, any transactions that had been carried out at that time lacked any form of legitimacy. However, the position will come under scrutiny given that the Ottomans ruled Greece for almost four hundred years. Taking the perspective would imply that all activities that had taken place during that time were fraudulent/ illegitimate. In case it is agreed that Eglin took the items for purposes of preservation, internationalism, which was cultural back then, was at work in an attempt to secure the treasures for future generations irrespective of place of origin. However, the demand to have the artifacts back is supported by cultural nationalism that emphasizes the protection of national cultural objects.

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b. Rosetta Stone (Egypt)

Unlike the reluctance shown by the Greeks in attempting to regain their archeological material, the Egyptians have been more vocal. Recently, Dr. Zahi Hawass, the secretary to the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) of the country went to London demanding the return of the Rosetta Stone taken from the country (Ray, 2007). Egypt is engaged in an international campaign targeting to have the artifacts returned. According to the African nation, the country’s archeological items were plundered during the colonial time.

The Rosetta Stone is significant in understanding of what connects modern and ancient Egypt. The item made of steel was covered in carved text with three translations (Ray, 2007). Two of the languages were Egyptian while the other was classical Greek. The symbolic significance of the stone relates to the Pharaoh era.

As the above case of the Greek Marbles, the Rosetta Stone is considered a stolen item. Thus, the continued presence of the stone in a British museum is not only a source of shame, but also a reflection of imperialism. Although the British have not shown any signs of returning the property, they need to do so because at stake is a cultural artifact to which the people of Egypt ttach cultural value (Ray, 2007). The stone has an iconic meaning in the identity of the Egyptians. This aligns with the tenets of cultural nationalism directly. SCA has accused Britain in the past for keeping the stone in a poorly lit room (Anglin, 2008). The body believes that the UK does not value the object; hence, it should return the artifact to its rightful owners.

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When assessing the considerations on whether to return or retain the stone, it is crucial to resolve the nature of the transfer of the artifact from Egypt to Britain. Colonialism or European imperialism is also at the center of the transfer, just as the case of the Greek Marbles. Initially, the French invaders discovered the stone during the time of Napoleon forces’ conquest of the country (Ray, 2007). Although no clear agreement exists about the change of hands, it is widely regarded that a British colonel had seized it and transported to Britain. Another account posits that Edward Clarke, a British Egyptologist, was given the stone by his French counterpart (Ray, 2007). Regardless of the mechanism used, it is evident that Egyptians were not consulted over the transfer of the item. In this regard, the Egyptians have the right to demand the return of the archeological items that had been stolen by the British.

Egypt has another list of artifacts stolen by former colonial masters. For instance, the Dendera Temple Zodiac held at the Louvre, the bust of Queen Nefertiti under the ownership of Berlin's Neues Museum, and Ankhaf in Boston Museum are some of the archeological items that the county demands to be returned (Ray, 2007). Egypt has managed to secure a return of a number of artifacts to the country. For instance, the French government directed Louvre to return written text fragments that had been stolen from the country during the 1980s (Ray, 2007). Thus, a precedent exists that facilitates the handing back of stolen cultural items to the affected nations.

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Despite the continued rise in cases involving reparation of stolen artifacts, the British museum has managed to fend off such maneuvers. In particular, the museum has resisted attempts to take back the Elgin Marbles. The museum argues that it is a global repository of universal human cultural attainments (Ray, 2007). Thus, the argument presented by the UK is that it aligns with the view presented by cultural internationalism that perceives the whole as more significant than its part(s). However, as long as question marks remain regarding the procedure of the acquisition of the items, debates will continue raging about where the products should be.

The reasons in support of returning the stone include the facts that British ownership is based on a colonial dispute instead of an agreement, Egypt now has reputable heritage sites to take care of the artifact, and plundering of resources is unacceptable. However, the argument that the British museum is a global center with a long history, the potential damage of the artifact is given back and opening a Pandora’s Box of such issues is a deterrent to such a move.

  1. International Agreement about Cultural Properties

a. The 1954 Hague Convention

The Hague Convention 1954 is the pact on the protection of cultural items whenever a conflict emerges (Fincham,2008). The law was adopted in the Netherlands in 1954 as the primary treaty to enhance the preservation of national heritage in an event of an armed struggle. The law guides the conduct of countries in reference to cultural sites, repositories and monuments, museums, libraries as well as archives (Fincham,2008).Adopted after the ravages of the Second World War, the law was targeted at protecting the European cultural legacy.

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The Hague Convention is crucial in the fight against plundering of antiquities because of many reasons. Barrett, Morgan, and Gates (2006) note that state parties to the pact are more than one hundred. The high number gives the convention credibility and considerable jurisdiction. Hence, it is likely to have an effect on the preservation of cultural heritage. The convention has called for certain measures to ensure the protection of antiquities. These include the adoption of safeguards and preparation of inventories, instituting emergency measures to ensure protection against fires, and plans to remove movable artifacts whenever threats emerge among many other mechanisms (Fincham, 2008). The pact also calls for concerted efforts among various actors to ensure that cultural heritage is preserved.

b. Unesco 1970

Close to the end of the 1960s and the early 1970s, theft across archeological sites and museums was on the rise (Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2005). The events were worse across countries from the South part of Europe. Northern countries were offered antiquities without a clear source of origin. In a bid to curb the emerging scenario, the UNESCO 1970 law was created. The convention demands that member states take action in developing preventive measures, institutionalizing restitution mechanisms, and enhancing international cooperation.

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The 1970 pact has been seen as a benchmark for the tenets of other conventions targeting trade in antiquities (Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2005). The entry of the UNESCO 1970 formally brought the issues that affected cultural materials into the limelight internationally. Under Article 5, state parties should establish services that protect the cultural heritage of other countries. Article 5b focuses on setting up inventories covering protected items. Although a well-intended article, it is noted that many states such as those from the developing part of the world lack the capacity to carry out such tasks. Article 5f dwells on educating and creating awareness across the citizenry about the Convention and its implications. Thus, the wider community is expected to have information regarding the protection of cultural items.

c. UNIDROIT 1995

The UNIDROIT Convention is among the legal instruments adopted to stem the fight against stolen archeological items. The agreement reflects an ambitious idea aimed at reconciling the previous laws from different states in a bid to reduce the harmful consequences that result from conflicting legislations (Melikian,2010). The convention established common guidelines on restitution and return of the cultural objects among states that are party to the pact. The provisions are intended to promote the reverting of archeological artifacts to the original owners. The law fills the gap found in the UNESCO Convention as it places regulatory efforts across markets to end the illegal supply of related items (Melikian,2010). The convention recognizes difficulties involved in depending on the developing world to police their borders as well as archeological locations. The law also significantly contributes to the struggle by bringing uniformity in the laws of the countries that are signatories to the convention. Under the pact, states are required to surrender cultural material even if complainants cannot verify that the items in question were stolen. The focus of the convention is to harmonize various laws of the different member countries (Melikian,2010). Given the long-running problem regarding the state of cultural artifacts, the law makes a significant breakthrough that is likely to help in the mitigation of the problem. Despite the efforts, the convention has a number of flaws that limit its usefulness in redressing the current situation.

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After the adoption of the convention, a great deal of criticism was raised against it. Antiquity dealers were largely concerned. For instance, the EuropeanFine Arts Foundation indicated that it would move from Basel andMaastricht were Switzerland and Holland to ratify the pact (Melikian,2010). The arguments were that dealers in the trade would find themselves constantly in the courts about such cases.

  1. Successful Return of Different Countries

a. Frederick Schultz

Owing to the pressure from places of origin, some antiquities have been returned successfully. The case involving Frederick Schultz, a renowned dealer in antiquities in the United States, is a pointer to the state of affairs. The case went through a number of courts, and the Court of Appeal upheld the ruling leading to the conviction of Schultz (Brenner, 2006). A lower court had affirmed that cultural materials, subject to state ownership, were considered stolen when they had been removed from the country of origin without the consent of the government (Brenner, 2006). Frederick Schultz led the National Association of Dealers in Ancient, Oriental, and Primitive Art. He was charged for conspiring to trade antiquities acquired from Egypt. The most prominent item was the Pharaoh, Amenhotep III that was sold for over one million US dollars (Brenner, 2006). It is noted that since 1983, Egypt had claimed ownership of all archeological items originating from its boundaries. The government argued for the application of the National Stolen Property Act so that all cultural artifacts taken illegally could be protected. Thus, all antiquities stolen from sovereign nations are treated as those illegally acquired from museums or private homes, both locally and abroad. The law applies to New York, which is a central area in the antiquities trade, as it serves as an outlet for objects acquired from Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Central America, and other nations rich in archeological heritage (Brenner, 2006).

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