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.
In a chapter of his 2006 book <i>Cosmopolitanism</i>, 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.