The Ethics of/in Negotiating and Regulating Cultural Property

Project Director: Prof. Dr. Regina Bendix (Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology)
Researcher: Dr. des. Stefan Groth (Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology)

Project Abstract

Transnational processes of negotiating and regulating cultural property are closely tied to questions relating to ethics. Debates on restitution, IP, human rights, misappropriation of cultural artifacts or the universal value of culture, postcolonial constellations or social and economic inequalities of marginalized groups related to cultural property system heavily make use of moral grammars. Referring to codified law, natural law, the rational generation of norms and allegedly universal or distinctly relativist values and morality, these grammars stretch across local, national, regional and transnational levels. They are essential in both shaping and transforming rhetorics of and discourses on cultural property, creating multiple normativities and justifying rationalities in speaking for or against specific cultural property legislation and regulation. Central to these ethical questions are concepts of morality, legitimacy, and justice/fairness, each presupposing and at the same time constituting ideologies in negotiations on and regulatory practices of cultural property. Focusing on the inextricable nexus of international organisations dealing directly or indirectly with matters of cultural property as well as on the case studies from the research group, the project employs an analytical framework derived from linguistic anthropology to examine these rhetorics. It aims to map and deconstruct moral grammars in order to contribute to a broader understanding of the ethics of and in negotiating and regulating cultural property.

Project Presentations and Publications
  • Dr. des. Stefan Groth, Göttingen: “Die Erfindung der Moral: Allmendgemeinschaften und Cultural Commons in der Diskussion um kulturelles Eigentum”. Tagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde, Tübingen, 21.-24.09.2011