A Matter of Justice The Case for the Repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles It may be unfair to judge the past based on present day morals or beliefs. This does not, however, excuse allowing past injustices to go uncorrected. Many of the worlds most prestigious museums are filled with trophies of colonial expansion (Rubenstein 2004271) obtained by veritable vandalism (Barringer 199821-23). It is no consolation that the responsible parties are long dead. In fact, the heart of the issue is the legitimacy of those museums themselves. Created to feed the imperial desire to show their dominance over non-western cultures, their exhibits consist of mere representations (Mitchell 19917-9) displayed without the context which is necessary for them to be understood (Barringer 199812). Despite their claims, rather than the truth, they present their own narrative of western supremacy (Hall 1992225) which simply emphasizes prior wrongdoing. Returning notable artifacts to their places of origin would be a symbolic step in recognizing these injustices. Rather than an opportunity to redress the abuses of history, the case of the Parthenon Marbles reinforces the political notions of colonialism and ethnocentrism. Ironically, the refusal of the British to repatriate the Parthenon Marbles to Greece threatens the rationale offered for retaining them, namely archaeological knowledge, study and preservation.
The notoriety of the Parthenon (or Elgin) Marbles places them at the forefront of the issue of repatriation of material culture. In order to properly understand the controversy, it is essential to appreciate the historical context surrounding them. A collection of large 5th century B.C. sculptures originally part of the Acropolis, they are commonly named for the British lord who brought them to England in the early 1800s (Greenfield 198947). These artifacts would be noteworthy simply for their size. The Parthenon occupied a central part of the Acropolis, and included an ornately...
References: Cited Barringer, Tim 1998 The South Kensington Museum and the colonial project. In Colonialism and the Object Empire, material culture and the museum. Tim Barringer and Tom Flynn, eds. Pp. 11-27. New York Routledge. Boardman, John 2000 The Elgin Marbles Matters of Fact and Opinion. International Journal of Cultural Property 9(2)233-262. Brysac, Shareen B. 1999 The Parthenon Marbles Custody Case Did British restorers mutilate the famous sculptures Archaeology 52(3)74-77. http//www.jstor.org/stable/41779253, accessed January 28, 2014. Greenfield, Jeanette 1989 The Return of Cultural Treasures. Cambridge Cambridge University Press. Hall, Stuart 1992 The West and the Rest Discourse and Power. In The Formations of Modernity Understanding Modern Societies An Introduction Book 1. Bram Gieben and Stuart Hall, eds. Pp. 185-225. Cambridge Polity Press. Hamilakis, Yannis 1999 Stories from exile fragments from the cultural biography of the Parthenon (or Elgin) Marbles. World Archaeology 31(2)303-320. Jenkins, Ian 2001 The Elgin Marbles Questions of Accuracy and Reliability. International Journal of Cultural Property 10(1)55-69. Mitchell, Timothy 1991 Colonizing Egypt. Berkeley University of California Press. Renfrew, Colin 2000 Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership. London Duckworth. Rubenstein, Steven L. 2004 Shuar Migrants and Shrunken Heads Face to Face in a New York Museum. In Talking People Readings in Contemporary Cultural Anthropology. 3rd edition. William A. Haviland, Robert J. Gordon and Luis A. Vivanco, eds. Pp. 269-274. Whitby Ont. McGraw-Hill. - PAGE MERGEFORMAT 1- PAGE MERGEFORMAT 1 Y, dXiJ(x(
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