Cultural Security: The Evolving Role of Art in International Security
Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 19, pp. 19–42, 2007
Posted: 5 Jul 2011 Last revised: 19 Jul 2011
Date Written: 2007
By examining the historically progressive role of cultural property in terrorism and political violence, this paper reveals the evolving significance of art to international security. Over the past two centuries, abuse of antiquities and fine art has evolved from the spoils-of-war into a medium for conducting terrorism which strives to erase the cultural heritage of ‘the other’. In contrast to wartime destruction and plunder which date back millennia, the growth of the art market over the past fifty years has created opportunities for novel abuses of cultural property. Since World War II, maturing international awareness has recognized the threat which armed conflict and looting pose to cultural property, but in parallel, art trafficking and the politics of cultural property have become tools for transnational organized crime and terrorist groups. The resulting unique intersection of issues in art, politics and counterterrorism forms the basis for a new field - cultural security. After an assessment of topical security threats which suggest the need for such a field, the paper concludes by speculating on international-security risks precipitating from antiquities trafficking and collecting.
Keywords: antiquities trafficking, cultural property, ethnic cleansing, illicit markets, international security, terrorism
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