Essay: UNESCO’s Heritage Policies and World Heritage as a Middle Path between Imperialism and Nationalism

The following essay was written by E. Emmons Hahn, in December 2011, for Professor Lori Khatchadourian’s seminar “The Archaeology of Orientalism” at Cornell University.  All rights reserved.

This 25-page essay is, clearly, not in the format of a typical blog post, nor is it directly about the primary topic of this blog. However, the concepts and examples presented within are relevant to contextualizing critiques of UNESCO’s role in the designation and management of World Heritage Sites and related objects in museum collections.  As the reception and management of World Heritage Sites is a critical component in this project’s goal of exploring how cultural tourist destinations can become more sustainable, it is similarly important to examine the more common legal and ethical debates surrounding UNESCO’s creation and promotion of cultural heritage narratives, the context for which this essay provides.

The Politics of UNESCO’s Conventions on Heritage Management:

World Heritage as an Alternative to Imperialist and Nationalist Uses of Archaeology

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has served as a driving force in the development of cultural heritage as a powerful concept within international discourse concerning the role nation states play in determining significant components of human history and who gets to do what with the physical and narrative evidence that history has left behind. However, as an intergovernmental body with little power to enforce its international treaties and recommendations, commonly called Conventions, UNESCO has had varying degrees of success in protecting that which it deems the “cultural heritage of humankind.”[1]  As cultural heritage entails the active incorporation of meaning, affiliation and chronology into tangible and intangible aspects of the broadly defined idea of culture, it has become a process societies striving to reify their identities often use. This has been true of not only sub- or trans-national, nongovernmental groups, but also of nation states and international organizations like the United Nations and UNESCO. This deep connection between conceptions of identity and heritage complicates UNESCO’s involvement in attempts to guide international approaches to cultural heritage management, particularly when these attempts enter the debate over whether to prioritize the interests of nation states and their constituent peoples or the interests of the international community as a whole.

Some of the complexity of these issues becomes visible through analysis of the goals and efficacy of two of UNESCO’s Conventions relating to cultural property and cultural heritage, the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. These are not the only two Conventions that UNESCO has published concerning the management of cultural property on the international scale; however, they are two of the most influential and controversial in the field due to their conflicting pronouncements concerning, effectively, who gets to decide what cultural heritage is, what should be done with it, and whether or not the primary inheritors of such heritage should be mankind as a whole, individual nation states, or even smaller groups with specific claims on the identity potential of the objects and sites considered to have value as heritage. Overall, UNESCO strives for the dominance of a narrative promoting a universalist understanding of human heritage, but has repeatedly needed to mitigate this idealization of a pan-human, peaceful identity when faced with the practical issues of working with national governments, property owners and cultural groups of all kinds with a vested interests in using heritage for personal reasons, whether they are political, identity-based, value-based, economic or otherwise. Moreover, the on-the-ground application of UNESCO’s framework reduces the organization’s practical control, forcing them to rely on the participation and conflict-resolution of other stakeholders.

In order to delve into the values, stakeholders and practical results of UNESCO’s heritage Conventions, the relationship between the production of heritage and the production of identity must first be established. The term heritage is deeply linked to the concept of identity, as well as to the connection between people living in the present and people, groups, ideas, material objects, practices, events or places from the past. This link between past and present derives in part from the etymology of the word heritage itself, as the root has its source in the Latin term for heir, “heres, heredis”, with the modern term referring to that which may be inherited.[2] Indeed, this etymological approach to the term heritage evokes the passage of property from one person or group to another over the course of time. The relationship between heritage and issues of identity reflects two questions one must ask when defining the term: that is, 1) “Who inherits what from whom?” and 2) “What rights does that process of inheritance give the inheritor?”  These questions require the explicit identification of present and past owners of inherited cultural property, whether it is tangible or intangible, of what property constitutes that inheritance, and of the implications that the answers to these first questions have for power over that inheritance. In indicating the subject, object and associated contemporary power structure referenced in these questions, the process of identifying something as heritage rather than just “historical” brings “that which may be inherited” into the realm of identity politics. Indeed, Derek Gillman, who served as President of the International Cultural Property Society in 2010, proposed that “heritages (or cultures) are ways of thinking and talking about communities of people in space and time, related by shared practices, conventions and norms,” thus indicating the discursive, community-based and non-objective  elements of heritage production.[3]

Additionally, this framing of heritage as evidence for a link between the past and the present also serves as a common tool for the creation of identity stories for groups of all sizes, of all affiliations, and across the time and space of human history. However, both of these evocative terms, identity and “heritage,” lack unique or explicit definitions, with many potential interpretations and implications depending on the paradigm and agenda of the one writing the definition. One common component of the term identity as expressed by scholars of the field of cultural heritage is that it is something that “aggregates people, no matter how different their individual selves may be. But identity is not just about inclusion. It is also about exclusion. In order to identify with some, people also need to dis-identify with someone else,” even when those same people profess to affiliation with multiple, overlapping identities.[4]  Anthropological investigations into the formation of such identities have shown that the methods and manifested types of identity production can drastically complicate this view. In practice, the many forms of and creative processes involved in the construction of these perceived similarities and differences among groups of people – particularly when such processes come to justify various heritage management policies – give rise to vehement arguments over how heritage and identity should be institutionally linked, and who should get to decide the “who/whom” in the process of defining that link. Here, polarized debates can spring up concerning who gets to be stakeholders with significant interest in and power over the heritage/identity connection, with each side often choosing different interpretations for the meaning of not only these central terms, but also favoring either very specific or very broadly-defined groups for the roles of “giver” and “receiver” in the fundamental question of “Who inherits what from whom?”.[5]

The narratives that constitute this process of linking heritage and identity build on the past of the peoples in question, utilizing stories and material evidence supposedly inherited from those who have come before in order to symbolize solidarity for a select group, provide legitimacy to those telling the stories[6] and to create focal points that can stand in as representatives of greater historical patterns, values, and perceived truths marked as unique to the group in question.[7]  When these stories integrate components of tangible and intangible history into contemporary symbol systems, this kind of identity narrative begins to answer the first of the above questions, in the process constructing cultural heritage and cultural property out of stories and objects believed to be from the past. Alasdair MacIntyre, a scholar of contemporary political thought, has discussed how communal narratives and traditions support the creation of particular identity stories in such a way that Derek Gillman believes to support the premise that “’Heritage’ objects, then, are deeply associated with aggregations of cultural narratives, practices, values and virtues.”[8] In this way, the conception of heritage can provide the content for expressions of identity, support for identity narratives, locations for performing the continual process of creating identity, and give people a way to “experience community [while] they simultaneously legitimize and consent to the agendas of its builders and caretakers,” and distance themselves from those outside their community. [9]  In this way, the association between heritage and identity, as terms, processes and objects of study or agency, leads the conception and production of cultural heritage itself to rely on representations of unity and diversity, and therefore to be a useful tool of national, transnational and subnational institutions that utilize the ideas of unity and diversity to their own benefit, particularly where controversies over identity politics are clearly pronounced.[10]

As an intergovernmental institution that relies on the participation of its constituent member states, UNESCO and its international Conventions cannot help but be affected by the relationship between heritage production and the various approaches to cultural identity that its member states promote when this branch of the United Nations deals with policies concerning the protection and representation of objects and sites deemed to be of cultural importance.[11]  Although such policies, as proposed by UNESCO over the last 66 years, primarily have sought the protection and preservation of objects and customs that potentially constitute the “world heritage of mankind as a whole,”[12] the application of these policies inevitably encounters the fact that such heritage becomes or remains affiliated with particular cultural or political identities linked at some level to divisions among the people of the world, even when it is only through peaceful processes of defining themselves. As a result, UNESCO’s conventions and declarations have ended up prioritizing the concept of “universal” human identity over those associated with smaller societies in some instances, such as in the designation of World Heritage Sites, while, in others, acknowledging and encouraging the use of “civilization and national culture” to promote a nation’s sovereignty in decisions regarding the movement of portable cultural property.[13]

The internationalist, pan-human approach derives from the United Nations’ foundation in the aftermath of World War II. UNESCO’s foundational constitution of 1945 states “that since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed;” this initial premise has led UNESCO and related international institutions to use language throughout their Conventions that promotes awareness of rights and experiences common to all mankind, rather than those limited to one nation, or other potentially bellicose groups.[14]  In relationship to cultural heritage, relevant examples of such behavior can be found in the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, the 1972 UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the 2003 UNESCO Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage. These documents, which use phrases like “world heritage of mankind as a whole,” “heritage of all the nations of the world,” “cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value”[15] “great importance for all peoples of the world,” “each people makes its contribution to the culture of the world,”[16] and “affect[s] the international community as a whole,”[17] seek to bypass interpretations of heritage and cultural identity that confine certain aspects or products of human experience to merely a subset of our species. Rather, these documents operate under the premise that promotion of an idea of universal humankind, rather than divisions based on nation, race, ethnicity, language, religion, orientation, or any other affiliation, will reduce the possibility of war by increasing perceived similarities across all members of our species.

As mentioned previously, UNESCO’s policies reflect and, in practice, need to come to terms with the complex relationship among nations, perceived identities, and production of cultural heritage, as well as the physical items, sites, stories, and customs that constitute the objects of heritage discourse. Specifically, the components of UNESCO’s heritage-related conventions that deal with the practical applications of the organization’s overarching rhetoric are those that have had to most directly interact with and respect concerns about sovereign control of individual governments within their own nation state. This is true for both portable and monumental or site-based forms of tangible cultural heritage.

A primary example of this pattern in relation to portable heritage is the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property from 1970, which supports the idea that a state should have the freedom to decide what constitutes cultural property within its own geographical domain and how it should be protected[18], in addition to denouncing “the dangers of theft, clandestine excavation, and illicit export,” where illicit export is that which is not sanctioned by the government,[19] and where these processes of illegal removal lead to “the impoverishment of the cultural heritage of the countries of origin of such property,” rather than the impoverishment of the heritage of mankind.[20]  This convention can be considered to be more applied than its predecessor, the 1954 Hague Convention, as it provides for more practically powerful enforcing bodies, that is, the state governments with sovereignty over territories in which heritage materials are found. This contrasts with the 1954 Hague Convention’s lack of any kind of institutional enforcement, with States Parties[21] expected to be honorable in their promise to not destroy any kind of cultural property that is not of military necessity in an ongoing conflict, with the only apparent punishment being international disapproval, rather than the legal action that is possible through the body of a state government that can be recognized in court.[22] The repercussions of the 1970 Convention have spread throughout the worlds of archaeological excavation, museum collecting and the antiquities trade, as it led to bilateral agreements among numerous countries that consider anything illegal that cannot be proven to have existed outside its country of origin before 1970, or that was not given legal permission since to leave said country.[23]

These agreements and related debates over the validity of national retentionism or repatriation of cultural objects from outside the geographical region of their origin have led to the most widely publicized of those issues connecting heritage and identity on an international scale, given that, while many stakeholders in the debate agree that undocumented excavation of objects and sites is detrimental to the collection of knowledge about human history, most also take the side either of the predominantly impoverished, unstable, developing countries that continue to house within their lands high densities of unexcavated, potential cultural property, or of those institutions – primarily in western Europe and America – that support collecting the art and artifacts of a wide range of human cultures. In this debate, the latter institutions often consider themselves to be the protectors and conservators of and educators about the historical objects stored in their museums, under the premise that such “encyclopedic” museums, with internationally derived, “universal” collections are able to integrate different areas and times in human history for the benefit of their quantitatively vast audiences.[24] Two common critiques of these museums is that their encyclopedic paradigm developed in the Age of Imperialism, and that their drive to continue expanding their collections provides a willing market for illicitly excavated antiquities.  This means that such museums’ motivations and practices come under attack as being disrespectful of the source nations and cultures associated with their collections, [25] despite the museums’ recent attempt to connect their universalist approach to rhetoric about the common heritage of mankind.[26] In response, the pro-universalist museum director,[27] James Cuno, has called these critiques fundamentally a debate about national power and cultural sectarianism, rather than deriving from honest concerns about imperialism or the protection of cultural property.[28]

This view that the 1970 Convention supports the self-promotion of national identities at the loss of international cooperation, learning and respect that could come out of the universalist paradigm – all under the supposition that such nationalistic control over heritage leads to that heritage’s protection – is a common rebuke of UNESCO’s approach to the relationship between portable cultural property and identity. Indeed, Cuno and others have gone so far as to protest the policies that support nation states retaining objects of cultural property to use for their own identity narratives – particularly when that property derives from a people with no immediate connection to those currently living in their lands beyond a common physical geography – as a dangerous, nationalistic form of imperialism over the past. Furthermore, he proposes that efforts by source countries to reclaim objects from their region’s distant past under the guise of their nation’s cultural heritage and their right to self-determination over the story that heritage tells is, practically speaking, a way to redirect attention from the inability of these countries to provide security from theft for the archaeological sites and museums within their own territory.[29] The editorial board of the American Council for Cultural Policy, in an article proposing radical changes to laws dealing with the preservation and movement of art and antiquities, highlights the perspective that much of UNESCO’s acquiescence to the right of sovereignty of nation states to choose what constitutes their own non-exportable cultural property perhaps derives from a desire to be politically correct in supporting self-determination rather than having the best interests in mind of the common heritage of mankind. The result, says the ACCP board, is the increased power of “exclusionary notions of ethnic, religious, and national identity. In some quarters, internationalism has become suspect as a neo-imperialist agenda. Humanism is now closely behind the times.”[30]  Accordingly, many view it as shameful and potentially destructive to the originally peaceful goals of the United Nations that this mentality encourages divisions along national or sectarian lines, rather than continuing to promote the concept of “human heritage” over that of fragmented and competing cultural identities.[31]

Furthermore, this critique continues by proposing that the 1970 Convention’s support for the right of source nations to claim history and its objects for their own purposes leads to “abuses [of] logic” and “excessive retention,” according to prominent scholar of heritage law, John Henry Merryman, as governments can claim “any cultural object present in their national territory [as] part of the national heritage. For example, Italy has denied their owners export permission for watercolors painted in Austria by Adolf Hitler and for Matisse and van Gogh paintings painted in France,” [32] partially based on Article 4 of the 1970 Convention, even though the connections between such items and the development of identity in that country are tenuous at best.[33]  These negative reactions regarding the extent to which source countries’ manipulate claims to cultural property as their heritage in the face of the international community problematize the language used in the Preamble to the 1970 Convention, as they draw attention to the ambiguity in this Convention concerning which approaches to heritage – fragmented or universal – UNESCO more strongly supports, particularly given the added complication of seeking the physical preservation and protection of material forms of cultural heritage without addressing the ethics that arise through the process of connecting material heritage with the identity narratives that make those objects into heritage.

Considering that the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural and educational purposes increases the knowledge of the civilization of Man, enriches the cultural life of all peoples and inspires mutual respect and appreciation among nations, / Considering that cultural property constitutes one of the basic elements of civilization and national culture, and that its true value can be appreciated only in relation to the fullest possible information regarding is origin, history and traditional setting, / … Considering that, to avert [the] dangers [of theft], it is essential for every State to become increasingly alive to the moral obligations to respect its own cultural heritage and that of all nations, / … Considering that the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property is an obstacle to that understanding between nations which it is part of UNESCO’s mission to promote by recommending to interested States, international conventions to this end, / Considering that the protection of cultural heritage can be effective only if organized both nationally and internationally among States working in close co-operation.[34]

In this Preamble, the 1970 Convention acknowledges both universal and nationalist (or civilizational) aspects to why cultural property can be important as heritage, with greater power given to the nation states than to the international community in this regard. Something that the above mentioned critics of this Convention and its resulting effects on the movement and preservation of antiquities do not take into account is the Preamble’s comment about the Convention’s efficacy. This line towards the end of the section implies that the preference for nation-based control over determining the answers to our earlier questions “Who inherits what from whom?” and “What rights does that process give the inheritor?” is meant not as mark of political correctness or anti-imperialism, but rather a practical decision of distributing responsibility instead of taking on the vast and nearly impossible task of policing the excavation, trade, publicity and political use of material history that has the potential value of heritage, particularly through an international, intergovernmental, non-enforcing organization like UNESCO. Given the difficulty that individual archeological sites, cities, national governments and border patrols have in preventing theft within their specified territories, even when they have the added incentive of a link between the material culture and an identity narrative, it is easy to see why UNESCO sought to delegate responsibility in this matter regardless of their primary attitude towards “universal heritage”. However, the fact that practical concern about the efficacy of the 1970 Convention appears to have driven UNESCO’s decision to give individual nations such power and freedom over the cultural property within their geographic boundaries does little to mitigate the “excessive” retentionism and anti-internationalism that Merryman and Cuno discuss, or the vociferous battles fought through the media and courts about the application of the 1970 Convention to identifiable cases of “looting”.

Italy, in particular, has learned to use the media and the law to great success in order to provoke the repatriation – or “return to the homeland” – of a number of objects of cultural property believed to have been removed from Italian soil since the cutoff date of the 1970 Convention. In Italy’s attempts to have major American museums return such works, it has brought court cases against those with ties to people who illicitly excavate and sell archaeological finds from Italian-owned lands. However, these cases themselves are often very difficult to prosecute through to the conclusion of punishment for those individuals in violation of the 1970 Convention’s prohibition on such activities across international borders, due to lack of sufficient evidence, expirations on the period of time between the crime and the trial due to statute of limitation laws, or disputes about which state’s laws should be followed. As a result, Italian prosecutors have utilized the media to build up concern in Italy and abroad about foreign violations of Italy’s patrimonio nazionale e culturale (national cultural patrimony).

This is particularly true for the case of the Euphronios Krater that Italy sought from the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and the trial of Marion True, the former curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. In these instances, general consensus is that the incredible amount of negative publicity these cases brought upon their respective museums from throughout the international community forced the museums to return the contested objects, rather than any actual legal action that required them to do so as a result of possibly violating the 1970 Convention.[35]  Although the 1970 UNESCO Convention becomes part of the discourse about what specifically makes the underground exportation of such recently-excavated objects to be illegal, the implication of immoral acts of violating Italy’s cultural integrity was what drove the discussion in popular media in both Italy and the United States, relying on the premise that “Italy’s cultural integrity” is a valid concept.

As a number of the objects these prosecutors have sought to reclaim for Italian museums were created by or were transported to Italy for groups who interacted with the Romans but primarily preceded them in their residence of the Italian peninsula and islands, scholars and museum specialists like Merryman and Cuno would point out that whether or not these objects should be part of contemporary Italy’s cultural inheritance from the past should be under debate, as the Etruscans and Greeks were not the direct ancestors of the majority of current Italian genetic or cultural lineages. Similarly, the creators of such objects undoubtedly did not intend for them to become the property (and propagandistic tool) of any particular government several millennia into the future.[36]  Despite this, the basis of the Italian claim on these objects rests on the fact that “they derive from cultures that developed autonomously in the region of present day Italy… [They are] Italian by origin and identity” due to the coincidence of having a historical presence in the same physical section of land as that currently owned by the Italian state and discussed in Italian identity discourse as belonging to the Italian people.[37]  Except for those individuals and institutions with a vested interest in the universalist, cosmopolitan perspective on how to deal with cultural heritage, there is little critique of Italy using geography as the basis for connecting different cultural groups under the identity of Italians, although such criticisms do occasionally arise in countries whose historical civilizations have more apparent differences than those between current Italians and ancient Etruscans, like the predominantly Arab population of modern Egypt in comparison to that land’s Pharaonic past.[38]

In the case of Italy, along with that of other source nations calling for repatriation under the 1970 Convention, the process of creating cultural identity has similarities to the invented traditions that Eric Hobsbawm discusses in the introduction to The Invention of Tradition, as well as the link between bloodlines and nationality as analyzed by Brackette Williams.[39]  Indeed, the ethnic bloodline of Italians, and that which forms their cultural birthright,becomes conflated not only with the power of the nation state, as Williams would support, but also with those who left objects behind on the Italian peninsula in ages past and with the stories recently told in order to connect contemporary and ancient residents of that land. It is through the fairly recent premise that not only is there an Italian identity at all,[40] but that the Italian identity stands on the foundations of ancient non-Roman peoples who lived across the peninsula.[41] In fact, the Italian term for cultural heritage is usually given as patrimonio nazionale or patrimonio culturale, instead of eredità (inheritance), which would be a closer translation of the English term heritage. The very term for heritage in the Italian language, thus, evokes for Italians the idea of both one’ ancestors (padre meaning father) and one’s geographical homeland or point of origin (patria predominantly meaning homeland), all wrapped up in the nazione, the modern nation state of Italy. In this way, the very meaning of heritage in Italy – and therefore the application of international discourses on heritage management – is inscribed with particular places and times that come to symbolize what it means to be Italian.[42] Thus, the process of telling stories about who and what constitutes the Italian past makes physical objects, buildings and places into cultural heritage – simultaneously providing a sense of continuity and tradition that links contemporary Italians to long and distant portions of history, connected predominantly through the narrative and the landed location of the Italian state.

However, Italy is not the only modern nation state to utilize concepts of physical and cultural heritage in the creation of a contemporary identity narrative. Indeed, this is something that by now has become “epidemic” due to the wide-spread recognition of the concept’s utility for giving concrete form and common rallying points to group identities of all kinds.[43]  This is particularly so with groups struggling actively with issues of unity and diversity, although the process occurs throughout both developed and developing countries to varying degrees of controversy.[44]  Given the interwoven legacies of imperialism, self-determination and the scholarly guilt evoked by Edward Said’s Orientialism, though, states with relatively recent dates of coalescence but long histories of ancient archaeological sites – particularly those states that had experienced colonization within the last several centuries – have garnered enormous amounts of attention and sympathy regarding the international community’s attempts or failures to protect their associated heritages.[45] A few examples from the innumerable cases out there include the debate over the Parthenon marbles, the looting of the Baghdad and Cairo Museums, and the Angkor Archaeological Park.  Although the reasons behind such a pattern of media attention are too complex to investigate thoroughly here, the occurrence of sometimes violent controversies over heritage sites and objects parallels Katherine Verdery’s article “Ethnicity, nationalism and state-making,” in which she elaborates on Clifford Geertz’s theories about the articulation of ethnic identities. Here, she points out that questions of ethnicity and identity often arise particularly in young states, those that are still determining who and what they are, and who and what they are not.[46]  This correlates with the observation that those countries that are most vocal (although not necessarily the most effective or popularly-supported) regarding the relationship between their heritage and their national identity are also those with high numbers of archaeological sites and those still struggling with the relatively recent articulation of their own national identity.

One such nation that regularly provokes debate about the connection among these issues of nationally constructed heritage claims, the recent development of the modern state, the applicability of the 1970 UNESCO convention and the validity of claims concerning universal human heritage is Greece. The particular issue at hand is the Greek state’s call for Great Britain to return the number of marble carvings that Lord Elgin had removed from Athens’ famed Parthenon building in 1801, which have been on display in the British Museum for most of the last two centuries, and which have provided the most heated and famous arguments over universalist versus nationalist approaches in heritage discourse.[47] The original removal of the sculptures occurred when the Ottoman Empire rewarded the diplomat Elgin – for Britain’s role in stopping Napoleon’s conquest of Ottoman territory in Egypt – with permission “to take away any sculptures or inscriptions which do not interfere with the works or walls of the Citadel [i.e.: the Parthenon building within the Acropolis].”[48] Although the Ottoman Empire, which included Athens and the Acropolis in its territory at this time, had the legal right to allow Lord Elgin access to the Parthenon sculptures, the British diplomat overstepped the permission given to his archaeologists by the Ottoman firman. Therefore, not only was the removal of these marbles horrifying to a number of British, Greeks and Turks present, as the removal process “left the Parthenon looking like a gap toothed hag,” but it was also technically illegal.[49]  Before Elgin’s mutilation, the Parthenon was already in a partially ruined state, a fact which he used to justify his “rescue operation” of the highest quality sculptures remaining on the ancient Greek temple.[50]  Despite this, public reactions have remained mixed ever since, with the Greek government, upon gaining its independence in 1833, requesting the British Museum to return the sculptures repeatedly from 1835 into the early twenty-first century.[51]

Over time, these events have turned the story of the Parthenon marbles into the prime example of how complicated international debates over world heritage can be.[52] The contemporary Greek Ministry of Culture actively discusses the loss of these sculptures from the Athenian Acropolis as a crime against the people of Greece, which becomes particularly potent for many given the illegal status of Elgin’s deconstruction of the building and the Acropolis’ role in representing Athens as a city symbolic of the height of Greek classical civilization and the eventual rise of democracy in Europe and America.[53]  This rhetoric occurs through pamphlets, signs, the construction of the New Acropolis Museum and public media. In such discourse about the importance of the sculptures from the Parthenon, these works of ancient art are closely linked to the development of the modern Greek identity. [54] Although such a cultural identity narrative has led many to sympathize with the Greeks’ perceived loss of heritage, Britain has yet to return any of the Elgin marbles. A significant portion of the argument for not doing so is the amount of time that the marbles have been in England: long before the 1970 Convention and its prohibition on removing another nation’s cultural property. Moreover, some believe that they “have become part of the British cultural heritage and the British Museum experience.”[55] In particular, the British Museum views the Elgin marbles as a critical component in the Museum’s collection, where scholars and visitors can see the Parthenon marbles in the context of countless other items of artistic accomplishment from cultures from around the world. Even in instances where there is no direct relationship among such objects, here the concept of universal human heritage returns, as the British Museum is one of the most prominent encyclopedic museums, and opponents to the marbles’ repatriation support the idea that it is just as important for visitors to the British Museum to be able to understand the role that Classical Greek culture played in the development of a wide range of other “interconnected civilizations that extended from the Mediterranean far into Western Asia, and [in] a common European cultural heritage consciously founded on a Hellenic past.”[56] Under this premise, returning the Parthenon marbles to the Parthenon would reduce the educational and symbolic role they could provide in the service of the common heritage of mankind, rather than just the heritage of the Greek people. In this way, both parties have incorporated the sculptures into particular identity narratives that are complicated by the politics of post-imperialist Britain and post-colonized Greece. The political associations of the Parthenon marbles for British, Greek and internationalist identities have forever tied them to the debate between universalist and particularist heritage agendas. Simultaneously, their political history has also removed them from the realm of the 1970 Convention’s applicability despite the fact that these marbles come up in most conversations about the ethics of repatriation.

The universal significance of these marbles becomes further complex through the Parthenon and the Acropolis’s inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, an international program designating and promoting particular locations around the world as being of importance to the heritage of all mankind. While such inscription supports the significance of the Acropolis to Greece and its integrity as a symbol of the “classical spirit and civilization, [forming] the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world,”[57] it also gives credence to the British Museum’s supporters who hold the view that “culture, while it can have deeply rooted, special meanings to specific people, doesn’t belong to anyone in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t stand still.”[58]

The UNESCO Convention that created the World Heritage List in 1972 stands in marked contrast to the 1970 Convention: it not only recognizes the “incomplete, [and] insufficient” ability of nations to protect their material heritage from “deterioration or disappearance” but also specifically highlights “that parts of the cultural or natural heritage are of outstanding interest and therefore need to be preserved as part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.”[59] In recognizing the limitations of the 1970 Convention without revoking it, and in explicitly seeking to establish “an effective system of collective protection,” this Convention was simultaneously the most practically-based and universalist among UNESCO’s cultural heritage related conventions up to that time. In promoting a globalized, pan-human interpretation of what should constitute heritage, this Convention, its constituent World Heritage List and subsequent related Conventions take a more nuanced relationship then does the 1970 Convention regarding the role of nation states in the protection and production of heritage.

On one hand, each of the States Parties to the Convention are responsible for “identify[ing] and delineat[ing] the different properties situated on its territory” deserving of recognition on the World Heritage List.[60] Each State Party is expected to properly maintain, protect, conserve, research, promote and present their own World Heritage Sites as is appropriate to that country’s means and as is possible to integrate the Site into the life of the surrounding community.[61] On the other hand, Articles 6 and 7 explicitly recognize the sovereignty of individual states and their ability to control property rights within their own territories, while asking that all the States Parties to the Convention work together to protect cultural and national world heritage on behalf of the international community, with the assistance of UNESCO. Finally, the 1972 Convention created an Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage to assist individual nations with this process, and to try to ensure that World Heritage Sites retain a universalist framework of interpretation.[62]  This was the first time that UNESCO developed any kind of participating agency related to the application of its rhetoric regarding the protection of cultural heritage and cultural property. As a result, this Convention’s novel approach, integrating both national and universalist interests in both theory and practice, has had a far more productive and predominantly less controversial effect than its predecessors.

By allowing individual nations to nominate and maintain their most important sites of natural and cultural heritage themselves, UNESCO does not preclude the integration of these sites into individual narratives of identity. This is in contrast to the 1954 Convention, in which the targeting or military use of cultural property was prohibited regardless of the strategic advantage of destroying one’s enemy’s morale and cohesion through the targeting of such symbolic sites. Similarly, it differs from the 1970 Convention, in that the 1970 one prioritized states’ interests and rights to use material heritage in identity narratives over international access to cultural property, while the 1972 begins the process that UNESCO has followed ever since: elevating the diversity of human cultures as fundamental components of the richness of human culture on the whole, undifferentiated and united across divisive identities.

Michael A. di Giovine calls this latter paradigm UNESCO’s “meta–narrative claim” of “unity in diversity.”[63]  Furthermore, he proposes that this meta-narrative creates a heritage-scape, a globalized, cultural geography that combines the narrative of common traits of human identity and experience with specific nodes across the world, each of which celebrates both the diversity of the World Heritage Sites and the premise that the human species has enough universal patterns of culture to bypass individual differences in the process of building peace. This concept of the heritage-scape, encapsulates the role that institutionally-supported heritage plays to connect past-and-present-time, physical places and power-structures related to cultural identity of many types. In uniting specific, idealized moments of creativity, struggle or activity across human history into one story about the universal human experience, globalized heritage compresses time, creating a “simultaneity of past and future in an instantaneous present.”[64]  Moreover, Giovine uses this term as a symbolic cartography for Arjun Appadurai’s idea that “the new global cultural economy [is] a complex, overlapping, disjunctive order that can no longer be understood in terms of existing center-periphery models.”[65]    This is due to the de-centralized structure of this symbolic cartography, designed to link people around the world through specific points in time and space, while, supposedly, reducing hierarchical differences among them. Within the heritage scape, every culture is a unique and unrepeatable gift to history, while also being part of humanity as a whole and contributing to the richness that makes humanity what it is. This paradigm of unity in diversity builds upon the ideas that guided the 1954 and 1970 Conventions, and it seeks to highlight and preserve that which makes us human, while recognizing the practical fact that more specific identity narratives often utilize the concept of heritage for a wide range of sociopolitical purposes, including at the national level. Simultaneously, UNESCO’s unity in diversity framework is designed to exist above and beyond any debates about how heritage production creates specific ethnicities or particular cultural identities, leaving that form of discourse to individual states’ decisions about the subjects, the objects and resulting rights associated with their definition of cultural property under the 1970 Convention.

This meta-narrative extends from the process of designation and inscription of individual Sites to the rhetoric that UNESCO uses in officially sanctioned publicity about each Site. As outlined in Article 5 of the Convention, each participating nation must be responsible for selecting and then maintaining the World Heritage Sites of natural, cultural or mixed cultural-landscape significance that are entered on the List. This process is inextricably linked, therefore, with the values that the host country would like to promote, meaning that the nation has the greatest amount of say over which elements of its territory’s history are most celebrated or overlooked in this international program. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee or other individual nations can encourage the inscription of a Site, but it is only in rare instances that a governmental body that lacks sovereignty over a particular region can sponsor the inscription of something within that region.[66]  As such, the World Heritage Convention still relies on the goodwill and power of its individual States Parties in order to carry out its goals of combining the interests of those States Parties over particular Heritage Sites and the interests of a peace-seeking internationalist mentality. In taking into consideration the practical questions of sovereign control and particularist narratives that such cooperation with individual nation states must entail, UNESCO attempts to mitigate the effects on the production of a universal human identity that derive from the exclusionary component commonly believed to be part of the creation of any kind of identity. Effectively, by claiming these Sites for all humanity, UNESCO would otherwise be excluding either no one, or those who do not support the development of world peace through these examples of commonality and pan-human richness of culture. Since it would be extremely difficult to remove these Sites completely from associations with specific subsets of human society, UNESCO instead seeks to superimpose multiple narratives of why a Site is significant and worthy of not only preservation, but also respect. Practically speaking, by appeasing nation states’ personal interests through their participation in the inscription and continued care phases of the World Heritage process, the 1972 Convention and its associated institutions seek to facilitate this overlapping production of unity and diversity narratives.

In terms of the inscription process itself, UNESCO’s internationalist values retain a significant amount of influence over the degree to which a Heritage Site’s public narrative is linked to universal versus particularist cultural identities. For example, the inscription process on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and subsequent commentary by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) for the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau focus on the “outstanding universal significance” of the crimes “against humanity” perpetrated within the camp’s walls. With an emphasis on Auschwitz’s place as “the largest cemetery in the world: 4 million persons of all nationalities (sent from 24 different countries, and among these, so many Jews), were systematically starved, tortured and assassinated,” the camp is treated as a memorial to “men, women and children” who died, and as a call for the vast violence against people (not just specific peoples) around the world during the 20th century to never happen again.[67]  Here, the particular murder victims at Auschwitz are memorialized, but they are also connected to all who have been treated similarly across the world, with the explicit “hope that this project [of curating Auschwitz as a World Heritage Site], supported by such terrible proof, will contribute to the maintenance of world peace.”[68]  Some have protested this kind of approach as overlooking the specifics of this and other Sites’ particularized significance in favor of this globalized message of pan-human peace, but UNESCO has continued to promote inscription narratives that mix references to that which gives a Site its unique, symbolic power and that which connects that symbolism to all mankind.

UNESCO’s power to affect the curation of a Site as a universalist symbol of humanity’s unity and diversity is not all-reaching, however. Practically speaking, the ability of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to realize its goal of a pan-human identity based on celebration of both the unity and diversity of cultures only extends as far as the people affiliated with a Heritage Site will allow. A prime example of this can be found in the Vietnamese city of Hội An, where UNESCO’s universalist claim on the ancient city has been criticized for intentionally forgetting significant details in the region’s history. As a trading port that has been home to immigrants from around the world for centuries, it was easy for UNESCO’s designation of Hội An to say that it “is an outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time in an international commercial port… Hội An is an exceptionally well preserved example of a traditional Asian trading port.”[69]  In this way, the city is officially connected to both a universalist pattern (the way in which cultures “fuse” in international commercial ports) and the semi-specified type of a “traditional Asian” port, as distinct from contemporary or European ports. A walk through certain areas of the town supports this mixed global/local perspective, but it is challenged upon reaching the second floor of the Hội An Museum, which is not managed by UNESCO. Here, the town tells the story of its role in the Vietnam-American war, celebrating the Viet Cong spies, secretly rebellious villagers and related Ho Chi Minh allies who fought against the “American imperialists,” people of whom the current Hội An residents are still proud.[70]  This dichotomy is where the exclusionary component of UNESCO universalist human identity becomes clearly visible; although the unity and diversity paradigm seeks to promote the commonalities discoverable beneath superficially unique cultures, it also excludes those affiliations and stories that highlight the differences that still affect contemporary identities of people associated with Heritage Sites. This is one of countless examples in support of Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s observations in Silencing the Past, highlighting the complex relationships between what stories those in power decide to tell, and which they do not, for whatever reasons of ignorance or agenda.[71]  UNESCO, as an international, intergovernmental body that seeks to overlap a universalist narrative onto places and things that are still important for living people, regularly must face the practical difficulties of integrating localized identity narratives with one that promotes the experiences of mankind as a whole.

In the case of Hội An, the World Heritage narrative of the Site coexists with the story of the Hội An Museum without providing any detriment to the town’s survival, as the power of the pro-Viet Cong identity is now unlikely to cause local residents to, say, continue the Vietnam-American war against the American tourists whom the World Heritage Site designation attracts to the town. This is not the case of all World Heritage Sites, however. For some, the official recognition of a Site’s symbolic value for both a specific and an international community creates an incentive for a warring group to destroy that Site. In those instances, the destroying party effectively dismisses UNESCO’s narrative of a universal human identity as impotent to protect a Site beyond the publicity and administrative advice offered by the international organization.

Indeed, the actual inscription of the ancient temple complex of Preah Vihear in 2008 has instigated recent attacks on the Heritage Site as a result of disputes over sovereignty at the border between Cambodia and Thailand, which the temple literally straddles. The temple, with a history of significance to Hindus and Buddhists in both of the regions now under Thai and Cambodian rule, became part of Cambodia’s territory in 1962, when the International Court of Justice in the Hague decided to settle the border dispute based on the location of the temple’s associated hermitage within undisputed Cambodian territory. Thailand continued to protest the decision but ceased militarily striving for the return of the site for a number of decades, eventually working to block Cambodia’s nominations of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site from 1992 to 2007.  This was due to concerns that recognition of the temple as sponsored by Cambodia would forever damage Thailand’s future hopes of regaining the land and would preclude recognition of elements of the temple’s historic importance to the Thai people. For a time in 2008, the Thai cabinet endorsed the temple’s nomination under the premise that it would have no “prejudice to the rights of both Thailand and Cambodia on their overlapping territorial claims over the areas adjacent to the Temple.”[72]  However, a Thai political party called the People’s Alliance for Democracy soon claimed that “the government had sold out the Thai people to Cambodia by “losing” Preah Vihear,” and incited repeated protests over the UNESCO designation.[73]  Moreover, Thailand has since criticized UNESCO’s inscription process, claiming that greater involvement on the part of the Thai government and people would have reduced the negative reaction among the Thai towards the Cambodian inscription of the temple. In 2011, the situation continued to escalate when revived military action surrounding the border dispute expanded to the territory of Preah Vihear and the fighting resulted in both deaths and damage to the temple. This occurred in spite of the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, urging the fighters to leave the area and respect that the temple should be a symbol of humanity’s collective cultural achievements, “unit[ing] people and serv[ing] as an instrument of dialogue and mutual understanding and not of conflict.”[74]  Here, the symbolic significance of the temple, which UNESCO has tried to integrate into its narrative of universal human identity, has failed to keep the Site safe from harm. Rather, it has inevitably become entangled with the cultural identity and national politics of those with direct affiliations to the temple; instead of drawing attention to the temple’s potential to support world peace, the World Heritage List inscription served to highlight the vast difficulty of reassigning narrative meaning to heritage with previously potent identities.

Despite UNESCO’s goal of producing, promoting and protecting the heritage of mankind, the international organization has repeatedly faced the challenges of integrating an idealized definition of universal inheritance of the human past into a world still divided along national lines, among many other rifts associated with various forms of identity. Although the 1970 Convention has thankfully helped expand legal and ethical support systems that denounce undocumented excavations and movement of cultural property, its reliance on individual nation states to prioritize what that property is, what story belongs to that property, who its inheritors are, and what rights they have to that heritage has similarly swelled the degree of controversy over repatriation. The archaeological community and the source countries in which many of them work have benefited from the Convention’s anti-looting premise, but “excessive” requests for retention, repatriation and the return of objects moved during the Age of Imperialism – all of which operate under the pro-national-identity stance of the 1970 Convention – have conflicted with the pro-universalist claims from within market countries, leaving both sides dissatisfied with the power of the Convention to bring about change and understanding. In different but related ways, the 1972 Convention has also had to deal with claims to national ownership of cultural property, questions of what components of a World Heritage Site’s history can participate in the World Heritage narrative and even violence-inciting questions over who gets the right to inscribe a Site and claim it as its national contribution to World Heritage. These challenges have complicated the relatively well-received 1972 Convention’s rhetoric of promoting world peace through the celebration of unity and diversity in human history through a system of national/international cooperation. Although many factors have led to these difficulties on the path to successful heritage protection as it is envisioned by UNESCO, a common thread throughout remains the significant connection between conflicting conceptions of what heritage means and the powerful effects of identity production on national and international scales. Given the complexity of that relationship as becomes evident when practical application tests UNESCO’s rhetoric, neither the 1970 nor the 1972 UNESCO Conventions have found an ideal recipe for producing heritage as a tool for international peace.

Works Cited

American Council for Cultural Property, Editorial Board. 2005. “Conclusion: Museums at the Center of Public Policy” in Who Owns the Past: Cultural Property, Cultural Policy and the Law, edited by Kate Fitz Gibbon, 319-326. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press in Association with the American Council for Cultural Property.

Anderson, Benedict. 2003. Imagined Communities. New York: Verso. 24. Quoted in Michael A. di Giovine. 2009. The Heritage-Scape: UNESCO, World Heritage and Tourism. New York: Lexington Books, 93.

Anico, Marta and Elsa Peralta. 2009. Introduction to Heritage and Identity: Engagement and Demission in the Contemporary World, edited by Marta Anico and Elsa Peralta, 1-11. New York: Routledge Press.

Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at Large. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 32. Quoted in Michael A. di Giovine. 2009. The Heritage-Scape: UNESCO, World Heritage and Tourism. New York: Lexington Books, 93.

Baram, Uzi and Yorke Rowan. 2004. “Archaeology after Nationalism,” in Marketing Heritage, edited by Uzi Baram and Yorke Rowan, 3-23. New York: Altamira.

Beyeler v. Italy, European Court of Human Rights, application no. 33202/96. Judgment, Strasbourg: 5 January 2000. In informally compiled textbook for “The International Legal Framework for the Protection of Art and Cultural Property” course at The Tulane-Siena Institute for International Law, Cultural Heritage and the Arts: 2011, edited by Francesco Francioni, 101-124.

Cuno, James. 2008. Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle over our Ancient Heritage. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fitz Gibbon, Kate. 2005. “The Elgin Marbles: A Summary,” in Who Owns the Past: Cultural Property, Cultural Policy and the Law, edited by Kate Fitz Gibbon, 109-121. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press in Association with the American Council for Cultural Property.

Flora, Holly, ed. Informally compiled textbook for “Collections and Collectors: The Ethical and Legal Issues” course at The Tulane-Siena Institute for International Law, Cultural Heritage and the Arts: 2011.

Francioni, Francesco. 2007. “Cultural Heritage,” in informally compiled textbook for “The International Legal Framework for the Protection of Art and Cultural Property” course at The Tulane-Siena Institute for International Law, Cultural Heritage and the Arts: 2011, edited by Francesco Francioni, 1-12. Originally published in the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, edited by the Oxford University Press. Last modified March 2007. subscriber_article?script=yes&id=/epil/entries/law-9780199231690-e1392&recno=16& subject=International%20humanitarian%20law. Accessed December 10, 2011.

Gillman, Derek. 2010. The Idea of Cultural Heritage. New York: Cambridge University Press.

di Giovine, Michael A. 2009. The Heritage-Scape: UNESCO, World Heritage and Tourism. New York: Lexington Books.

Hobsbawm, Eric. 1999. “Introduction: Inventing Traditions,” in The Invention of Tradition, edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, 1-14. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Interview with officer who wishes to remain anonymous, at the Italian Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale, Florentine headquarters, June 10, 2011.

Jeannerette v. Vichy, 693 F.2d 259 (2d Cir. 1982).

Kersel, Morag. 2004. “The Politics of Playing Fair, or, Who’s Losing Their Marbles?” in Marketing Heritage, edited by Uzi Baram and Yorke Rowan, 41-56. New York: Altamira.

Kimmelman, Michael. “Who Draws the Borders of Culture?” New York Times, May 5, 2010, http:// Accessed June 13, 2011.

Lenzerini, Federico. 2003. “10.2 The UNESCO Declaration Concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back,” in informally compiled textbook for “The Protection of Art in Times of Crisis: From War to Natural Disasters” course at The Tulane-Siena Institute for International Law, Cultural Heritage and the Arts: 2011, edited by Riccardo Pavoni and Federico Lenzerini, 205-213. Originally published in The Italian Yearbook of International Law, vol. 13: 131-145.

Lowenthal, David. 1996. Possessed by the Past: The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History. New York: Free Press, 249. Quoted in Uzi Baram and Yorke Rowan. 2004. “Archaeology after Nationalism,” in Marketing Heritage, edited by Uzi Baram and Yorke Rowan, 3-23. New York: Altamira.

Merryman, John Henry. 2005. “A Licit International Trade in Cultural Objects,” in Who Owns the Past: Cultural Property, Cultural Policy and the Law, edited by Kate Fitz Gibbon, 269-289. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press in Association with the American Council for Cultural Property. Originally published in Art Market Matters. Helvoirt, Netherlands: The European Fine Art Foundation, 2004.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2008. “The Results of Consultation between Thailand and Cambodia concerning the Inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear on World Heritage List.” Bangkok: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Thailand. Downloaded from web/2654.php?id=19992 on July 1, 2008. Quoted and referenced in Michael A. di Giovine. 2009. The Heritage-Scape: UNESCO, World Heritage and Tourism. New York: Lexington Books, 405-406.

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Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston: Beacon Press.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). 1945. Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. London: UNESCO 1st General Conference, November 16, 1945.

— 1954. (The Hague) Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict with Regulations for the Execution of the Convention. The Hague: First Protocol, 14 May 1954; Second Protocol, 26 March 1999. &URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html. Accessed December 5, 2011.

— 1970. Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Paris: UNESCO 16th General Conference, November 14, 1970. URL_ID=13039&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL _SECTION=201.html. Accessed December 5, 2011.

— 1972. Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Paris: World Heritage Centre, UNESCO, November 16, 1972. Accessed December 5, 2011.

— 2003. UNESCO Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage. Paris: 32nd General Conference, 17 October 2003. Accessed December 5, 2011.

UNESCO News. “UNESCO to send mission to Preah Vihear.”  Last modified February 8, 2011. http:// Accessed December 11, 2011.

UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 2011. “World Heritage List: Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls.” Accessed December 11, 2011.

— 2011. “World Heritage List: Acropolis, Athens.”  Accessed December 11, 2011.

Verdery, Katherine. 1994. “Ethnicity, nationalism and state-making: Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: Past and Present,” in The Anthropology of Ethnicity: Beyond “Ethnic Groups and Boundaries”, Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis.

Waxman, Sharon. 2008. Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World. New York: Times Books.

Williams, Brackette. 1989. “A Class Act: Anthropology and the Race to Nation Across Ethnic Terrain,” in Annual Review of Anthropology, 18: 401-444.

[1] Lenzerini 2003: 134

[2] Online Etymology Dictionary

[3] Gillman 2010: 21. Emphasis added.

[4] Anico and Peralta 2009: 1

[5] I.e.: Groups associated with a particular regional, national, religious, ethnic or language, etc. affiliation on one hand, or all of humankind, on the other.

[6] Anico and Peralta 2009: 1

[7] Lowenthal 1996: 6

[8] Gillman 2010: 91

[9] Anico and Peralta 2009: 1

[10] Anico and Peralta 2009: 2

Indeed, Anico and Peralta state that “Heritage, in this sense, is closely linked with power and is an influential device in the construction of nation-states as well as in the identity politics led by multiple groups that are globally situated.” (Anico and Peralta 2009: 1). It is important to keep in mind that innumerable instances of creation, manipulation, representation and destruction of cultural heritage stories occur at the hands of those not directly associated with a political institution, although the way that the conception of identity constitutes a key ingredient in the transformation from merely historical object, place, story, etc. and into an item of cultural heritage makes this process inherently socio-political. (Anico and Peralta 2009: 2)

[11] Cuno 2008: 26

[12] UNESCO 1972: Preamble

[13] UNESCO 1970

[14] UNESCO 1945: Preamble

[15] UNESCO 1972: Preamble

[16] UNESCO 1954

[17] UNESCO 2003

[18] UNESCO 1970: Article 1
Specifically, Article 1 says that “the term ‘cultural property’ means property which, on religious or secular grounds, is specifically designated by each state as being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science,” as well as listing a range of broad categories of types of objects that could potentially be given cultural significance. Additionally, Article 4 continues to define how this legal document refers to the idea of heritage as “property”, stating that the “cultural heritage of each State [includes]

(a) Cultural property created by the individual or collective genius of nationals of the State concerned, and cultural property of importance to the State concerned created within the territory of that State by foreign nationals or stateless persons resident within such territory;
(b) cultural property found within the national territory;
(c) cultural property acquired by archaeological, ethnological or natural science missions, with the consent of the competent authorities of the country of origin of such property;
(d) cultural property which has been the subject of a freely agreed exchange;
(e) cultural property received as a gift or purchased legally with the consent of the competent authorities of the country of origin of such property.

Such definitions contribute to the conception of heritage as “property” given cultural meaning by a particular group of people, usually associated with a particular governing body that has legal sovereign authority over the land of origin, creation or discovery of that property.

[19] UNESCO 1970: Preamble and Article 1

[20] UNESCO 1970: Article 2

[21] A “State Party” is a government who ratifies and becomes participant in the agreements laid out in the document of an international Convention, similar to the signatories of a treaty.

[22] UNESCO 1954: Article 4

[23] Francioni 2007: Section 11

[24] Cuno 2008: 218, note 5:35

[25] “Source countries/nations/regions” is a common phrase in the debate over the antiquities trade and cultural heritage politics, referring to those countries that are predominantly involved in the supply side of the antiquities market, with considerable numbers of incompletely excavated archaeological sites and, typically, less developed economies or stable governments than those states that house the majority of the buyers in the antiquities market.

[26] Cuno 2008: 139-144

[27] James Cuno served previously as the Director of the Art Institute of Chicago and currently the President and Chief Executive of the J. Paul Getty Museum Trust.

[28] Cuno 2008: 155

[29] Cuno 2008: 155

[30] American Council for Cultural Property, Editorial Board 2005: 323

[31] American Council for Cultural Property, Editorial Board 2005: 321

[32] Merryman 2005: 275

[33] See Beyeler vs. Italy from the European Court of Human Rights for the case relating to a van Gogh painting and Jeannerette v. Vichy for the case relating to a Matisse.

[34] UNESCO 1970: Preamble. Emphasis added.

[35] Flora 2011: 77-105

[36] Attributed to Kwame Anthony Appiah without citation, quoted in Cuno 2008: 124

[37] Cuno 2008: 125

[38] Lowenthal 1996:249  Such commentary is particularly in response to acts by Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian archeologist, Egyptologist and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, as Hawass has a long history of requesting ancient Egyptian objects back from European and American institutions in a manner that attracts international attention. Waxman 2008: chapter 1, and Kimmelman.

[39] Hobsbawm 1999; Williams 1989

[40] The city-states of the Italian peninsula didn’t unite into a nation until 1871, and it wasn’t until 1946 that these states became the modern Italian republic.

[41] Interview 2011

[42] Anico and Peralta 2009: 6

[43] Anico and Peralta 2009: 2

[44] Baram and Rowan 2004: 8

[45] Cuno 2008. See chapter 5, “Identity Matters”.

[46] Verdery 1994: 37

[47] Waxman 2008: 225

[48] Waxman 2008: 225

[49] Waxman 2008: 226-227

[50] Waxman 2008: 228

[51] Waxman 2008: 232

[52] Kersel 2004: 53

[53] Kersel 2004: 48

[54] Waxman 2008: 238

[55] Kersel 2004: 52

[56] Fitz Gibbon 2005: 117

[57] UNESCO World Heritage Centre 2011: Acropolis

[58]” Kimmelman 2010

[59] UNESCO 1972: Preamble

[60] UNESCO 1972: Article 3

[61] UNESCO 1972: Article 5

[62] UNESCO 1972: Section 3

[63] di Giovine 2009: 119

[64] Anderson 2003: 24

[65] Appadurai 1996: 32

[66] A prime example of this actually happening is the inscription of Jerusalem on the World Heritage List in 1981, sponsored by the state of Jordan in order to bypass the persistent conflicts and controversies of the Israel-Palestine debate, although these same controversies led to the city’s inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1982. UNESCO World Heritage Centre 2011: Jerusalem.

[67] di Giovine 2009: 125-126

[68] di Giovine 2009: 125-126

[69] di Giovine 2009: 130

[70] di Giovine 2009: 130-131

[71] Trouillot 1995

[72] di Giovine 2009: 405-406; Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2008

[73] di Giovine 2009: 407

[74]  UNESCO News


3 Responses to Essay: UNESCO’s Heritage Policies and World Heritage as a Middle Path between Imperialism and Nationalism

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