Thursday, September 12, 2013

Anti-Americanism and the Archaeological Blogosphere

It's become increasingly apparent that the anti-collector rhetoric of the archaeological blogosphere goes hand in hand with anti-Americanism.  Archaeo-blogger Paul Barford may have deleted the latest evidence from his blog called "A Word from President Putin to American Collectors", but the point stands.

And it's not just Mr. Barford.  Another archaeo-blogger, Professor David Gill  of University Campus Suffolk, is no less anti-American.  It's just that he's far more subtle about it-- while Gill even fixates on pottery shards being repatriated from American museums, he's been largely silent about the provenance of artifacts in other museums, particularly ones in places like Greece, Italy and Turkey.

Is "American Exceptionalism" really the driving force behind damage to world cultural heritage or has "Archaeological Anti-Americanism" diverted attention away from real solutions to the problem?


Cultural Property Observer said...

Arthur Houghton asked me to post this:

"Peter, are you surprised? The fellow, who seems to have done nothing scholarly at all for years, no work whatsoever, and who has a broad reputation as something of an academic slug with no distinction whatsoever (try to find something on, purports to be a political, social and archaeological commentator -- the perfect example of puffery with no effect, to the laughter of his colleagues I have spoken to. I would ignore him, let him embarrass himself, hang him out to dry.

I do not think that anti-Americanism is endemic among our archeological friends, just a bit of scholarly arrogance from time to time and not involving more than a handful. The more problematic question is the degree to which certain of them become apologists for the countries they work in, not matter what those countries' governments may demand or do, legally or not, brutally or not -- perforce, since any disagreement would cut them off from their ability to work there. There is an Arabic expression I learned years ago -- Boos al-kelb min timm-o, hata takhd hajtak min-o. That's in Syro-Lebanses dialect, but I am sure our friend in Warsaw can find someone to tell him what it means.

Warm best wishes,


kyri said...

i wouldnt say david gill is anti american because he asks the met to publish the collecting history of certain pieces,which they admit they have.he is only asking the same questions arthur was asking when he was at the getty.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Thanks Kyri, but does looting only matter if American collectors, dealers and museums are involved? That is what it seems from Prof. Gill's blog. His barbs seem to be mainly directed at Americans.

Anonymous said...

Barford is extremely ani-America. It's always out there for anyone who reads his BS. Then again he is just a bitter man, period!

kyri said...

hi peter,i have lost count of the amount of posts david gill has written about bonhams and christies london.his posts concerning american museums/collections is simply a question of has been the us museums and collectors buying up most of these unprovananced antiquities over the last 4 decades.
$$$$ power
perhaps in a few years time most of his posts will be concentrated on middle eastern or rusian collectors/museums.
just today i was reading an article about the aidonia treasure,the mycenaean gold and jewelry returned to greece in 1996,where did it first pop up,in new york 1993, valued conservitively at $1.5 mill.this is just one example of hundreds.
i certainly dont agree with everything dr.gill says,his theory [along with michael vickers,artful crafts,clarendon press 1996]that 1,greek pottery pieces were not objects of any value in antiquity 2,they were cheap copies of silver pieces
3,their scorn of attributions and for those who give them,i totally disagree with but anti american,i dont think so.anyway,sorry for going on a bit and off topic.
ps,michael vickers was the curator who wrote comparing collecting antiquities to paedophilia in the ashmolean museum handbook on ancient greek pottery[page 9]i still cant believe the ashmolean museum published that,so as i said i certainly dont agree with them on all things.