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Accepted Paper:

The creation of Illegality and the rhetoric of cultural heritage: the illicit trade of 'Djenne Terracottas' in Mali, West Africa  
Cristiana Panella (Royal Museum for Central Africa)

Paper long abstract:

In the 90's, the Malian State designed a National 'Ethic' of Cultural Heritage based on the fight against the plunder of archaeological sites, in particular of the so-called 'Djenne terracottas'. I intend to show that the international debate on Cultural Heritage has brought about a process of "heritagization" of ancient terracottas, despite their being plundered based on their aesthetic and marketing values. Between 1980 and 1995, qualifying the trade of 'Djenne terracottas' as illegal has been directly proportional to the increase of their market prices. The mediatization of the fight against plundering archaeological sites has so far concealed this contradiction represented by the clandestine source of National Cultural Heritage.

The circulation of these objets interdits emphasizes the paradoxical link between illicit traffic of African art and the creation of the poetics of cultural heritage as filtered through the glass of an aesthetic, juridical and economic "global hierarchy of value".

Panel W092
Frontiers of 'legality' under neoliberalism: ethnographic explorations across shifting temporal and spatial scales
  Session 1