(Photo: “Robert E. Lee Monument” by Joseph / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.)

Lesson #3 — Law and Religion in Global Discourses of Destruction, Removal, and Preservation of Cultural Artifacts

Summary: In this last video I discuss a few general concepts relating to the discourses on destruction, removal and preservation and the roles that religion, law, memory, and trauma play in the future of our contested past. The historic concepts of Damnation Memoriae and Iconoclasm are briefly explained and the importance of the recent intervention by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, relating to the destruction of cultural antiquities, is highlighted.

Reflection and Discussion Question:

  1. In your opinion, who is the rightful owner of the Parthenon sculptures? Do you believe that cultural antiquities that have been removed from their original context, should be returned? Also comment on the return of the Benin Bronzes (see https://theconversation.com/germany-is-returning-nigerias-looted-benin-bronzes-why-its-not-nearly-enough-165349).
  2. Is this not merely an issue of ownership? Do you believe that, as the owner of a valuable cultural artefact, you have the right to destroy it?
  3. The British Museum (and other museums that house looted cultural artefacts) has been accused of cultural imperialism. What is your opinion and what do you understand under cultural colonialism?