The Parthenon Marbles Revisited: A New Strategy for Greece
44 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2012 Last revised: 7 Nov 2016
Date Written: August 13, 2015
Cultural property disputes raise questions of ownership, possession, alleged destruction, and looting, and are confounded by legal vacuums, and idiosyncratic statutes of limitations. Should objects of cultural heritage of a specific nation that have been removed in the past be returned to their source nation? This article addresses the perennial such claim, the claim Greece addressed to the British Museum for the return of a collection of Marbles from the Parthenon and the Acropolis of Athens. This article identifies a trajectory towards a more effective outlook on cultural property disputes transcending the traditional ownership versus value debate reflected in the recent scholarship. I argue for a shift in the context of the discussion from one of legal title and ownership to one of negotiation, cooperation, and advancement of both nationalist and internationalist ideals. It adds a new and neglected approach to an old unresolved debate by suggesting two primary arguments: (1) an inalienability argument based on Margaret Radin’s theory of personhood; and, in the alternative, (2) a reassessment of the cultural nationalism/internationalism debate through a more modest integrated approach, and new negotiation strategy based on prior successful returns of cultural property objects. First, Margaret Radin’s theory of personhood gives the country of origin a normative argument based on the link between some forms of cultural property and personhood, against typical commensurate perceptions of property. Second, and in the alternative, when the notions of cultural nationalism and internationalism are not approached as mutually exclusive the two can flourish together under clarified objectives that do not mesh with each other's agendas but rather bolster one another. This article then examines successful return strategies under this new integrated cultural nationalism/internationalism approach using the Four Quadrant Negotiation Model. Ideas such as loan agreements, trading and exchange of cultural artifacts, touring collections, exclusive excavation agreements, joint trusteeship, fractional ownership, personnel education, and liability waivers all provide excellent starting points in a negotiation not on how Greece can get the Parthenon Marbles back but on how to form a partnership between Greece and the British Museum that will promote collaboration, international exchange of cultural heritage, as well as public access, and education.
Keywords: cultural property, Parthenon Marbles, Elgin Marbles, cultural nationalism, cultural internationalism, negotiation
JEL Classification: K00, K11, K33, K30, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation