Cosmopolitanism and the appropriation of culture
(P42)
Location E
Date and Time 8th December, 2008 at 13:30

Convenors

Mark Busse (University of Auckland) m.busse@auckland.ac.nz
Jade Baker ahua@xtra.co.nz
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Short Abstract

This panel examines cosmopolitan claims of universal ownership of culturally valuable objects and the appropriations underwritten by such claims. It does this by looking at art markets, histories of museum objects, repatriation in a globalizing world, and arguments which emphasize the entanglement of objects, persons, communities and places.

Long Abstract

In a chapter of his 2006 book Cosmopolitanism, provocatively titled "Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?", Kwame Anthony Appiah argued that objects of cultural value "belong in the deepest sense to all of us" and "are of potential value to all human beings". While reminding us of our common humanity, cosmopolitan claims to a universal connection to art (what Appiah called "the connection despite difference") are also an appropriation—a claim to pan-human ownership that sidesteps political and economic inequalities in the contemporary world. These inequalities privilege people living in metropolitan centres who have access to public museums and art galleries, and allow only the wealthiest individuals to enjoy valuable cultural objects on a daily basis. This panel will further debates arising from cosmopolitan claims of universal ownership of cultural objects, and the on-going appropriations underwritten by such claims. It will do this by comparing and contrasting connections "despite difference" with what Appiah called "the connection to art through identity" (the connections people feel to objects that were created by their ancestors), as well as the concrete manifestations of such connections in art markets, histories of cultural objects in museums and private collections, the significance of repatriation in a globalizing world, and arguments against the cosmopolitan position which emphasize the entanglement of objects, persons, communities and places.

Chair: Mark Busse
Discussant: Andrew Moutu

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Coding memory: Whose culture does it serve, anyway?

Author: Jade Baker ahua@xtra.co.nz

Short Abstract

This paper presents memory as salient to object discourse as it defines culture-specific connections. In discussion with objects from Ngati Awa, it queries new object memory codes and posits where cosmopolitanism is located in respecting culture-object relations.

Abstract

In her book The Carpathians (1988) Janet Frame posits memory as "a naked link, a point, diamond-size, coded in a code of the world" (p. 171). Like memory, objects too emerge naked, then begins a cumulative process of linking to the code of a culture-specific world. Object memory is salient because it solidifies associations between people, as actors with memory, and in this discussion, taonga, objects created by Māori.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, colonial attitudes facilitated the relocation of taonga from tribal stewardship to public and private ownership, whilst re-coding object memory. Furthermore, colonizing practices circumvented relationships between objects, between cultures and between people, leaving a unique historical imprint upon object memory that is still of consequence today. In discussion with taonga from Ngāti Awa, what 'new' memories were cast, as other complexities were subsumed, and who did this 'new' code serve?

In considering Appiah's chapter 'Whose culture is it, anyway?' (2006), it is tempting to regard cosmopolitanism as another 'code of the world' thereby re-coding object memory as befitting the metropole gaze. However, to examine this idea further, do pan-human ownership of objects, presented as the connection "despite difference", address the disparities described above, and if so, how? Following on, do taonga then 'fit' in the matrix of cosmopolitanism or are they more receptive to other types of ideas and relationships? Accordingly then, who will be the stewards charged with respecting object memory, potentially multiple layers of memory, as who determines which culture these codes will serve?

The appropriation of Inuit heritage - past and present perspectives

Author: Mille Gabriel (The National Museum of Denmark) mille.gabriel@natmus.dk

Short Abstract

Through an analysis of three Danish repatriation cases, this paper explores how the Inuit of Greenland, Canada and Alaska feel connected to human remains and cultural heritage through identity, thereby challenging the self-proclaimed universalism inherent in international museum standards.

Abstract

Heritage ownership disputes are often characterised by colliding cultural perspectives on material culture: on the one hand a cosmopolitan position based on notions of universal moral values and on the other hand ethnic, national or otherwise communitarian perceptions of material culture as inextricably constitutive of cultural identity.

Through an analysis of three Danish repatriation cases, this paper will explore how Inuit in Greenland, Canada and Alaska are connected to material culture through identity, but in very diverse ways conditioned by differing colonial experiences. While the Greenlandic claims were aimed at the return of representative collections for museum purposes, Canadian and Alaskan Inuit were primarily concerned with human remains and the right to rebury the ancestors. While Greenland owing to the introduction of Home Rule are mimicking Western state formation processes appropriating symbols as 'national heritage' and 'national history', Canadian and Alaskan Inuit claims are embedded in post-colonial Indigeneity, including processes of cultural revitalisation and political empowerment.

In expressing reservations towards reburial and in the formulation of prerequisites to be fulfilled prior to repatriation, Danish cultural institutions were drawing on cosmopolitan notions on the universal value of cultural heritage preservation. I will argue that this self-proclaimed universalism, most clearly expressed in documents such as the 1972 World Heritage Convention and the 2002 Declaration on the Importance and value of Universal Museums, are imposing Western cultural heritage perspectives on non-Western peoples and thereby failing to recognise past as well as contemporary inequalities inherent in the colonial history of appropriation.

Wrong is an addictive, repetitive story; right is where the movement is.

Author: Ngahiraka Mason ngahiraka.m@xtra.co.nz

Short Abstract

Action breathes vitality and coherence into cultural histories, thus co-creating one’s movement between meaning and understanding. I draw on the ideas that senior Maori artists have shared with me through the making of the exhibition and catalogue Turuki Turuki! Paneke Paneke!

Abstract

'Wrong is an addictive, repetitive story; right is where the movement is' is a compelling idea and Paul Hawken's recent book Blessed Unrest (2007) charts radical and brilliant ideas, inspirational strategies and hidden histories that recognize how grassroots organisations and larger networks of people re-imagined relationships to planet Earth. He potently describes how things are starting to go right in the world.

In Appiah's Whose culture is it? (2006) is a radical and timely telling of the extractive practices of collectors and keepers of art and antiquities across the ages, yet raises the notion that we can also re-imagine relationships and their powerful connections to cultural objects, in ways that we do not practise today. He asks that we recognize other ways to view cultural treasures in the twenty-first century.

I will discuss how inspirational ideas are vital to the way Maori 'stewards' and artists see a place in the world of cultural exchange including relationships, with ancestors, with humanity and with the planet. And, that the biggest movement in present history has more to do with the ability of human culture to rise above the addictive repetitive stories of wrong and focus on what is going right. I draw on my understanding of ideas that senior Maori artists have shared with me through the making of the exhibition and catalogue Turuki Turuki! Paneke Paneke! 24 May-24 August 2008 Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.

Words Escape Us

Author: Joan Metge 

Short Abstract

Maori words adopted into New Zealand English are typically used with reduced meanings, losing the full range of original meanings and subject to further change. Can such changes be controlled? Are words ultimately unownable?

Abstract

Over the last twenty years increasing numbers of Maori words have entered the lexicon of New Zealand English as Maori fighting to keep their language alive use both important and everyday words when speaking English, and non-Maori accept and use them too. Is this appropriation, exchange or something else? In the early stages of the process, these words are given one or two word glosses in print media; these reduced meanings become entrenched in usage and the range and connotations of the original meanings are lost. Sometimes these reduced meanings are fed back into Maori usage. In time non-Maori speakers experiment with these 'borrowed' words, giving them new including metaphorical applications. This paper explores this process and its positive and negative consequences and asks: to whom do words belong? Can 'borrowing' be controlled and by whom? What responsibilities do anthropologists carry? Or are words ultimately unownable wealth?

Throwing Spears at http://www.spearchuckasart.com

Author: Huhana Smith (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) huhanas@tepapa.govt.nz

Short Abstract

Throwing Spears at http://www.spearchuckasart.com explores the tenuous relationships between the national and international auction house, the auction website, the dealer/the vendor and the indigenous museum curator. They interact in contested, tense and often strange and uncertain ways.

Abstract

Throwing Spears at http://www.spearchuckasart.com explores the difficult and tenuous relationships the indigenous museum curator has between the national and international auction house, the auction website, and the dealer acting for the vendor. They often interact in contested, tense, in strange and uncertain ways. This paper investigates a range of difficulties experienced in determining ways through the convoluted nature of relationships had over indigenous cultural matarial, particularly taonga Mäori at auction both nationally and internationally and for the way taonga or other Pacific material may be inappropriately treated by dealers lacking greater understanding or insight into indigenous cultures and their social realities.

Rethinking appropriation of the indigenous: A Romanticist approach to cultural imperialism within neo-Pagan communities

Authors: Janice Newton (University of Ballarat) j.newton@ballarat.edu.au
David Waldron (University of Ballarat) d.waldron@ballarat.edu.au

Short Abstract

Since their origins, neo-Pagan communities have been riven by conflicts surrounding appropriation from indigenous cultures. The experiences of romanticism and empire are central to understanding this appropriation as well as an understanding of intercultural discourse and communication.

Abstract

Since the origins of contemporary neo-Paganism in the 1950s, neo-Pagan communities have been riven by conflicts surrounding the appropriation of art, ritual, music and identity from colonised indigenous cultures. Fundamental views of ethnically owned cultural property and heritage are juxtaposed with notions of universal ownership reflecting post modern cosmopolitanism. These perspectives of cultural appropriation and belonging are profoundly shaped by the twin concerns of needing to maintain a sense of authenticity in ritual, symbolism and belief, and by access to public representation which is shaped by a long history of colonial and post-colonial engagement with indigenes. Furthermore, issues of wealth, power and representation and the structural issues of cultural transmission within indigenous and neo-Pagan communities further complicate the issues surrounding cultural ownership and identity. The paper argues that the experience of romanticism and empire are central to understanding the appropriation of the indigenous by neo-pagan communities but also recognises that deep connections and genuine commitment to shared communicative discourse in a contemporary cultural context are part of this relationship.

This paper negotiates these issues in relation to the engagement of neo-Pagan discourses with colonial indigenous culture in relation to romantic constructions of ethnicity, community, language and cultural property.

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Engaging with a 'global' morality: the moralised language of protection in the issues surrounding the illicit transactions of antiquities

Author: Eisuke Tanaka (Fukuoka Jo Gakuin University) eisuket@gmail.com

Short Abstract

This paper explores how the idea of protecting ‘heritage’ operates by focusing on international disputes over the illicit antiquities trade. It argues that viewed the moralised idea of protection works both to connect and differentiate various claims over the control of ‘heritage’ across local, national and international levels.

Abstract

This paper will explore how the idea of protecting 'heritage' operates by focusing on international disputes over the illicit antiquities trade. It will specifically compare various claims against the illicit illegal exports of Turkish national 'heritage' by Turkish collectors and archaeologists with claims against the destruction of 'heritage of humanity' through which are made by Euro-American antiquities dealers, collectors, and archaeologists.

Discussions concerning control over things marked as 'heritage' suggest that cultural manifestations are considered to belong to two collective or communal entities i.e. 'heritage' of a particular community (i.e. a nation or an ethnic group) and 'common heritage' or 'heritage of humanity.' However, it is important to note that these two points of view do not simply oppose with each other. Seen as a good practice, the protection is assumed in both approaches.

Analysing various claims against the international illicit antiquities trade, this paper will examine the ways in which the moralised language of protection is used by those who show their interests in the control over cultural objects marking them as 'heritage'. It will demonstrate that these groups articulate their commitment to the protection of 'heritage' by portraying it as a good. The paper will also reveal that their claims are differentiated through the idea of protection. Through this, it will argue that viewed as a moral position, the idea of protection works both to connect and differentiate specific claims to cultural property across local, national and international levels.

Cosmopolitanism, Ownership and the Appropriation of Papua New Guinea's Cultural Property

Author: Mark Busse (University of Auckland) m.busse@auckland.ac.nz

Short Abstract

This paper explores cosmopolitan claims of pan-human ownership of culturally significant objects from Papua New Guinea in the context of international art markets, and argues for a critique of the straightforward application of ideas of property to cultural heritage.

Abstract

In his book Cosmopolitanism, Kwame Anthony Appiah recognised the power of the connections people feel to objects that are "symbolically theirs" because they were produced in "a world of meaning created by their ancestors". But he also argued for the importance of a universal connection to, and ownership of, art "despite difference" because that connection allows people to have what he called "a cosmopolitan aesthetic experience". In this paper, I draw on my experience working at the Papua New Guinea National Museum to explore cosmopolitan claims of pan-human ownership of culturally significant objects from Papua New Guinea in the context of international art markets, and the way in which such claims underwrite the appropriation of art objects. I will argue that what is needed is not a faith in property and the market as politically neutral ways of adjudicating the distribution of art objects, but rather a critique of the straightforward application of ideas of property to cultural heritage and an acknowledgement and respect for non-property forms of connection between persons and objects.