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Coleman, Elizabeth Burns, Rosemary J. Coombe, Fiona MacArailt. A Broken Record: Subjecting ‘Music’ to Cultural Rights
2012, In The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation, edited by James O. Young and Conrad G. Brunk: Blackwell Publishing.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes

Summary: This article presents multiple arguments for the “repatriation” of indigenous music, and the assertion of indigenous cultural rights, while troubling the imposition of legalistic frameworks of Western intellectual property. It situates the harms of appropriation in the perpetuation of unjust systems and misrepresentation, and demonstrates how careful attention to specific cultural practices can play an essential role in sorting out sometimes overly abstract debates about repatriation and appropriation.

Comment: This is a long and difficult text, but it does an excellent job of marrying careful attention to cases with philosophical context and reflection. It is a good choice for more advanced classes, particularly ones that might be focusing on music.

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Coleman, Elizabeth Burns. Repatriation and the Concept of Inalienable Possession
2010, In The Long Way Home, edited by Paul Turnbull and Michael Pickering: Berghan Books.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes

Summary: The concept of inalienable possession often figures centrally in debates about repatriation of cultural artifacts (which are also often artworks). The right of alienability (or the right to transfer title to property) is one of the core rights in Western property theory. If property is inalienable, this means that title to it cannot rightly be transferred. In this paper, Coleman analyzes the concept of inalienable possession, and argues that laws (such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)) can foist a conception of inalienable possession on indigenous peoples that can be inaccurate to past and changing cultural norms. She uses this point to offer a distinction between property and ownership. This opens up conceptual space for a link between objects and identity through ownership that might nevertheless allow for the alienability of such property.

Comment: This paper is best for a course unit that is making room for in-depth discussion of the property dimensions of cultural property. It would pair well with Janna Thompson's "Art, Property Rights, and the Interests of Humanity," or James O. Young's "Cultures and Cultural Property." It can be also used together with or in lieu of Sarah Harding's much longer and more detailed paper "Justifying Repatriation of Native American Cultural Property."

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Harding, Sarah. Justifying Repatriation of Native American Cultural Property
1997, Indiana Law Journal 72(3): 723-74.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes

Summary: Harding’s article offer an in-depth look at the theoretical justification for the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990, paying special attention to the category of “cultural patrimony” under which non-funerary artworks will often fall if they are subject to NAGPRA. The paper focuses on three different approaches to justifying repatriation: in terms of compensation for historical injustices, the value of an object to a community, and challenging the very possibility of ownership of cultural patrimony. Harding ultimately favors this final approach, suggesting a stewardship model on which we all have obligations with respect to the protection of cultural property.

Comment: This is a long law review article, and so is best for more advanced classes. It is a useful text for instructors who are interested in exploring cultural property issues in a legal but philosophically informed context. One can also assign only certain sections focusing on particular issues. For a shorter article that also promotes a stewardship model, the Warren paper is a good substitute, though not likewise embedded in the legal issues (and written before the passage of NAGPRA).

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Thompson, Janna. Art, Property Rights, and the Interests of Humanity
2004, Journal of Value Inquiry 38(4): 545-560.
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Summary: In this paper, Thompson sets up a potential tension between two kinds of cases. On the one hand, we might think it is wrong for a wealthy collector to destroy great works of Western art that have value for all of humanity. On the other hand, we might think it is acceptable for indigenous peoples to rebury or ritually destroy artifacts from their culture, even though these works might also have value for all of humanity. How do we reconcile these intuitions? After discussing and dismissing attempts to resolve the problem by appeal to the value of the property for its possessors or the desires of non-owners, Thompsons suggests that by looking at the value of art in the context of different cultural traditions we can see why a certain universalism about the value of art will tell against allowing the destruction of artwork by the wealthy collector, but allow for the reburial or destruction of artifacts by certain indigenous communities.

Comment: This paper pairs well with Kwame Anthony Appiah's 'Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?' or Peter Lindsay's "Can We Own the Past? Cultural Artifacts as Public Goods." It is particularly good at engaging questions about the universal value of art and its implications for ownership introduced in those texts.

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