14 Law and Literature 49, 2002
24 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2012
Date Written: Spring 2002
This article looks at the controversy surrounding the ownership of the Parthenon Marbles. It argues that relics, memories, iconic fragments and their reconstitution as (and through) narratives of attachment and belonging underlie every attempt to use the law to determine ownership of ancient objects. The law in cultural property claims attempts to allocate ownership of metaphors. This article attempts to suggest what these metaphors might themselves represent. Against a reading of what Friedrich Nietzsche says about memory in On the Genealogy of Morality, this article looks to analyses of memory and mourning to suggest that the claims for the Parthenon Marbles are claims for (authorized) memory, and to query what sort of memory is being claimed: memory that references sterile mourning, or memory that instead avoids lament and nostalgia, and functions as one of the mechanisms of man's “overcoming.” If it is the latter, then the claims for the Parthenon Marbles may represent memory that has resulted in completed mourning, a paradoxical position in which the city and its inhabitants claim the past in order to allow amnesia or forgetting to flourish, and thus to underwrite the possibility of a, or any, future.
Keywords: Parthenon, law, memory, Nietzsche
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