Accepted paper:

Cosmopolitanism, Ownership and the Appropriation of Papua New Guinea's Cultural Property

Author:

Mark Busse (University of Auckland)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores cosmopolitan claims of pan-human ownership of culturally significant objects from Papua New Guinea in the context of international art markets, and argues for a critique of the straightforward application of ideas of property to cultural heritage.

Paper long abstract:

In his book Cosmopolitanism, Kwame Anthony Appiah recognised the power of the connections people feel to objects that are "symbolically theirs" because they were produced in "a world of meaning created by their ancestors". But he also argued for the importance of a universal connection to, and ownership of, art "despite difference" because that connection allows people to have what he called "a cosmopolitan aesthetic experience". In this paper, I draw on my experience working at the Papua New Guinea National Museum to explore cosmopolitan claims of pan-human ownership of culturally significant objects from Papua New Guinea in the context of international art markets, and the way in which such claims underwrite the appropriation of art objects. I will argue that what is needed is not a faith in property and the market as politically neutral ways of adjudicating the distribution of art objects, but rather a critique of the straightforward application of ideas of property to cultural heritage and an acknowledgement and respect for non-property forms of connection between persons and objects.

panel P42
Cosmopolitanism and the appropriation of culture