Cultural Property and the Negotiation of National and Ethnic Identity

Claiming the Stones/Naming the Bones: Cultural Property and the Negotiation of National and Ethnic Identity

Edited by Elazar Barkan and Ronald Bush


384 pages

PDF file size: 73.6 MB


Art, literature, music, monuments, myths, and traditional practices can create a profound sense of communal belonging, yet nothing illuminates the ambiguities of group identity more than conflicting claims to such cultural property. Claiming the Stones/Naming the Bones considers the many ways in which controversies regarding the ownership of tangible and intangible communal expression have defined and determined solidarities in the modern era.

Claiming the Stones/Naming the Bones focuses on the interplay between ethnic or national identity and claims to cultural property. Its fifteen essays address current controversies over the definition and use of cultural materials from the perspectives of archaeology, physical anthropology, ethnobiology, ethnomusicology, law, history, and cultural and literary study. The objects of these disputes include tangible, unique items such as the Parthenon Marbles or the skeleton of Kennewick Man whose custody has provoked petitions for repatriation or restitution; intangible property such as the patterns of Maori tattoo or performances of traditional music whose appropriation has prompted calls for indigenous regulation; and figurative “representations” such as Mark Twain’s portrayal of African Americans or Philip Roth’s depictions of American Jewishness that have led to censure and censorship. At stake in these essays is not only how the past is framed but also how the control of cultural property may shape and consolidate group identity, both now and in the future.

The Getty Research Institute fosters critical inquiry into the creation and reception of all forms of visual art. The research it promotes is experimental and interdisciplinary, focused on specific problems but seeking unexpected connections among images, objects, texts, traditions, and social practices. The Issues & Debates series offers multiple perspectives on questions at the intersection of art history and the human sciences. Its volumes address subjects of scholarly and public concern by assessing visual art in various cultural and historical contexts using a range of theoretical approaches. This series makes available scholarship produced by the programs of the Getty Research Institute in collaboration with researchers and institutions worldwide.
—Thomas Crow, Director, Getty Research Institute

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
    Elazar Barkan and Ronald Bush
  • Amending Historical Injustices: The Restitution of Cultural Property—An Overview
    Elazar Barkan
  • Part I. Nationalizing Identity
    • Appropriating the Stones: The “Elgin Marbles” and English National Taste
      Timothy Webb
    • Latin America, Native America, and the Politics of Culture
      Clemency Coggins
    • Objects and Identities: Claiming and Reclaiming the Past
      Claire L. Lyons
  • Part II. Codifying Birthrights
    • Kennewick Man—A Kin? Too Distant
      Douglas W. Owsley and Richard L. Jantz
    • Cultural Significance and the Kennewick Skeleton: Some Thoughts on the Resolution of Cultural Heritage Disputes
      Patty Gerstenblith
  • Part III. Legislating the Intangible
    • Selling Grandma: Commodification of the Sacred through Intellectual Property Rights
      Darrell Addison Posey
    • The Stones Resung: Ethnomusicology and Cultural Property
      Hélène La Rue
    • More than Skin Deep: Ta Moko Today
      Ngahuia Te Awekotuku
  • Part IV. Righting Representations
    • The New Negro Displayed: Self-Ownership, Proprietary Sites/Sights, and the Bonds/Bounds of Race
      Marlon B. Ross
    • The Birth of Whose Nation? The Competing Claims of National and Ethnic Identity and the “Banning” of Huckleberry Finn
      Jonathan Arac
    • Yeats, Group Claims, and Irishry
      R. F. Foster
    • Cultural Property and Identity Politics in Britain
      Robert J. C. Young
    • Property, Schmoperty! Philip Roth, Postmodernism, and the Contradictions of Cultural Property
      Ronald Bush
  • Biographical Notes on the Contributors
  • Illustration Credits
  • Index

About the Authors

Jonathan Arac is Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he also serves as chair of the department.

Elazar Barkan is professor of history and cultural studies at Claremont Graduate University, where he also serves as chair of cultural studies.

Ronald Bush is Drue Heinz Professor of American Literature and a fellow of Saint John’s College at Oxford University.

Clemency Coggins is professor of archaeology and of art history at Boston University and an associate with the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University.

R. F. Foster is Carroll Professor of Irish History and a fellow of Hertford College at Oxford University.

Patty Gerstenblith is professor of law at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. She has been editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Cultural Property since 1995 and has served on the United States Cultural Property Advisory Committee since 2000. Richard L. Jantz is professor of physical anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he also serves as the director of the Forensic Anthropology Center.

Hélène La Rue is university lecturer and a fellow of Saint Cross College at Oxford University. She has been curator of the musical collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum since 1981 and curator of the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments since 1995.

Claire L. Lyons is collections curator at the Getty Research Institute, where she oversees acquisitions, exhibitions, and programs related to archaeology and ancient art.

Douglas W. Owsley is curator and division head of physical anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Darrell Addison Posey, at the time of his death in May 2001, was director of the Programme for Traditional Resource Rights of the Oxford Centre for Environment, Ethics and Society at Mansfield College and an associate fellow of Linacre College at Oxford University.

Marlon B. Ross is professor of English and Afro-American Studies at the University of Virginia.

Ngahuia Te Awekotuku is visiting professor at the Maori and Psychology Research Unit of the University of Waikato, where she is principal investigator for a three-year research project on the origins, technology, narratives, and practice of Ta Moko.

Timothy Webb is Winterstoke Professor of English at the University of Bristol.

Robert J. C. Young is professor of English and critical theory and a fellow of Wadham College at Oxford University.