Cultural Property and Contested Ownership : The trafficking of artefacts and the quest for restitution book cover
1st Edition

Cultural Property and Contested Ownership
The trafficking of artefacts and the quest for restitution

ISBN 9781138188839
Published July 7, 2016 by Routledge
260 Pages 8 Color & 33 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Against the backdrop of international conventions and their implementation, Cultural Property and Contested Ownership explores how highly-valued cultural goods are traded and negotiated among diverging parties and their interests. Cultural artefacts, such as those kept and trafficked between art dealers, private collectors and museums, have become increasingly localized in a ‘Bermuda triangle’ of colonialism, looting and the black market, with their re-emergence resulting in disputes of ownership and claims for return. This interdisciplinary volume provides the first book-length investigation of the changing behaviours resulting from the effect of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The collection considers the impact of the Convention on the way antiquity dealers, museums and auction houses, as well as nation states and local communities, address issues of provenance, contested ownership, and the trafficking of cultural property. The book contains a range of contributions from anthropologists, lawyers, historians and archaeologists. Individual cases are examined from a bottom-up perspective and assessed from the viewpoint of international law in the Epilogue. Each section is contextualised by an introductory chapter from the editors.

Table of Contents

Introduction: changing concepts of ownership, culture and property.
Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Lyndel V. Prott

Part I: Plunder, trafficking and return

01) Destruction and plunder of Cambodian cultural heritage and their consequences.
Keiko Miura

02)  Cambodia’s struggle to protect its movable cultural property and Thailand.
Alper Tasdelen

03)  Looted, trafficked, donated, and returned: the twisted tracks of Cambodian antiquities.
Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin

Part II: Between profit, authenticity and ethics

04)  Struggles over historic shipwrecks in Indonesia: economic versus preservation interests.
Mai Lin Tjoa-Bonatz

05)  Faked biographies. The remake of antiquities and their sale on the art market.
Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Sophorn Kim

Part III: Negotiating conditions of return

06)  The Benin treasures: difficult legacy and contested heritage.
Barbara Plankensteiner

07)  Pre-Columbian heritage in contestation. The implementation of the UNESCO 1970 convention on trial in Germany.
Anne Splettstößer

08)  Return logistics – repatriation business. Managing the return of ancestral remains to New Zealand.
Sarah Fründt

Lyndel V. Prott




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Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Göttingen, Germany.


Lyndel V. Prott is an Honorary Professor at the University of Queensland, Australia. She was previously Professor of Cultural Heritage Law at the University of Sydney, Australia, and the former Director of UNESCO’s Division of Cultural Heritage.


This book makes an important contribution in the expansive domain of cultural property. Taking the 1970 UNESCO as a very specific and important point of departure, this interdisciplinary collection opens new possibilities for understanding the complex relations between international bureaucracy and local responses in terms of decision-making, implementation and negotiation.

Jane Anderson, New York University, USA