Table Topics: “Cultural Heritage, Belonging and Ownership”
With our table hosts Dr. Sophie Engelhardt (Referat Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and Prof. Dr. Kavita Singh (Jawaharlal Nehru University) you can discuss issues concerning Cultural Heritage, Belonging and Ownership. Both gave us the opportunity to get to know their tables themes a little bit in advance via short statements:
Sophie Engelhardt: In recent years disputes over restitution and return of cultural materials have increased. Legal and moral as well as historical issues are raised in claims pertaining to Nazi-confiscated art, foreign or colonial occupation, theft or as a consequence of illicit trafficking, especially of illegally excavated archaeological objects. However, what happens to cultural property whose owner cannot be determined and where there is no claimant and no reliable indication where a piece of art might come from? Recent developments in international law suggest a so called “Safe Haven” for cultural property. However, this model of safekeeping faces various problems: Shall these objects be used for scientific purposes? Should these objects be exhibited to the public? It seems that only international cooperation between cultural institutions can deal with this situation.
Kavita Singh: Our relationship with the distant past, our sense of belonging to it, or its belonging to us, is always fictive. There are many pasts we desire, and pasts that we reject. Many revolutions programmatically destroy objects but there are also less dramatic ways of alienating the past – by consigning objects to stores, not writing about them, having them simply fall out of fashion. What happens to things from a past that is not useful to us? Furthermore the terms ‘Belonging’ and ‘Ownership’ are complicated as there is a conflict between individual ownership of objects that might belong to a person, or a church or temple – and the collective ownership implied by heritage. What happens when these two regimes of ownership come into conflict?