The entrails of 'beautiful' and 'proper' cultural heritage: diggers, middlemen and white collars in the grey trajectories of the transnational African art trade
Cristiana Panella (Royal Museum for Central Africa)
Cristiana Panella (Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren)
Barbara Plankensteiner (Queen's University, Belfast)
Start time:
28 June, 2013 at 16:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel focuses on the interfaces legal/illegal imbricated into the transnational African art trade. It is oriented on the social organization of rural links of the chain, on new spheres of aesthetic and economic value, and on the role of the illicit art trade in national integration policies.

Long abstract:

Despite the growing number of publications on cultural heritage and illegal art trade, literature on illegal African art trade is devoid of anthropologically informed approaches and usually takes a binary approach: nasty dealers vs. principled civil servants of cultural heritage. Research on intersubjectivities imbricated in the transnational trade chain are scarce; in particular, in-depth research on African rural networks of the clandestine trade in African art (first-hand data on rural outflowing and 'legal/illegal' interfaces) is, with a few exceptions, almost absent. The aim of this panel is threefold. First, it aims to highlight social organization of African rural links and its legal/illegal interfaces with African official actors. Second, it explores new trajectories of the international African art market and new spheres of esthetical and economic value raised in recent years on the wave of the global economic crisis and arrival of new profiles of traders and market trajectories. Third, it raises the links between 'unprovenanced objects' and national integration and international visibility policies. By reconstructing the trade chain as a whole, it is possible to contextualize hidden interdependence between the creation of 'beautiful' and 'proper' national cultural heritages and clandestine networks underlying it. Panelists are invited to give priority to the following domains:social organization of rural and local networks (division of tasks, reciprocity and hierarchy, management of money and knowledge), transnational mobility, market strategies, legal/illegal interfaces in circulation of objects, copy markets, spheres of value, official discourses on cultural heritage, methodological approaches to illegal art trade.