JUNE 24RD: CONFERENCE ON NEW APPROACHES TO HERITAGE ETHICS: INTERDISCIPLINARY CONVERSATIONS ON HERITAGE, CRIME, CONFLICT AND RIGHTS
SUMMARIES – Marcus DEAN and Petronela SPIRIDON
MORNING SESSION ON ‘HERITAGE, ETHICS AND RIGHTS’. CHAIRED BY SOPHIA LABADI.
The first talk of the day was given by Elena Perez-Alvaro and Fernando Gonzalez-Zalba from Birmingham University and Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory, who delivered a talk on Shipwrecks as stock for particle physics experiments: new uses of the underwater cultural heritage where they raised ethical issues surrounding the use of lead from ancient shipwrecks. Roman lead has an extremely high level of purity and is approximately one million times less radioactive than any lead we can produce today. This is a valuable asset in experiments involving dark matter, as well as the production of microchips and computer components in a growing market. It is due to these properties that salvaging companies, as well as scientific laboratories, are collecting ancient lead for scientific and commercial uses. This substance is not only the least radioactive metal available, but it also only costs a fraction of the price of metals with similar properties. They used the example of a laboratory at Gran Sasso, in Italy, which agreed to finance the archaeological excavation of a shipwreck containing 1000 lead ingots under the condition that they could keep 270 ingots to use in experiments.
Perez and Gonzalez raised a series of questions on whether this finite resource should be preserved or used, even if its exploitation could provide the key to scientific breakthroughs. Should we be willing to give it away if ancient lead held the key to curing cancer? What should be the dominant value (economic, or scientific or cultural) when dealing with ancient lead? Where are the boundaries?
The second speaker of the day was Harriet Deacon form the University of Cape Town, South Africa, who spoke on the subject of Intangible Heritage safeguarding: balancing ethics, community benefit and intellectual property rights. She highlighted the ethical challenges associated with implementing UNESCO Intangible Heritage Convention (2003), a convention which requires the full participation and informed consent of communities whose intangible heritage is inventoried to the lists of the convention. Its purpose is to ensure that cultural practices and skills continue to be practiced and transmitted by communities and groups. However, state intervention and appropriation could also distort the natural evolution of such practices. Deacon asks do we need more than a statement of principles in the convention? Would a code of ethics be more effective? Deacon also raised the point of who owns the intellectual rights to intangible heritage, as attempts to preserve and document intangible heritage could confer intellectual property rights. Does somebody who documents performing arts own the intellectual rights? And will they place emphasis on the aspects that the performers value?
The subsequent discussion led to questions related to the necessity and the effectiveness of such a code of ethics, as well as the price and value of other ancient metals and their potential uses.
After the break, Rob Pickard of Northumbria University delivered a talk on Human Rights and the Cultural Heritage: A European Perspective in which he looked at the concept of a common European heritage and its role in achieving greater unity between member states of the Council of Europe. Pickard looks at the role of cultural heritage in conflict prevention and resolution in areas of post-conflict, and the importance of preserving and having access to heritage, whilst equally promoting diversity through the use of heritage. He stressed the importance of the Faro convention of 2005, which promotes the right for every person to engage with the cultural heritage of their choices, the right to benefit from heritage and the recognition of the cultural values of others, which is vital element in order to strengthen communities of the cultural values of others, which is vital element in order to strengthen communities. He considered these principles through the post conflict and confidence building initiatives deployed in the Balkans, Black Sea and South Caucasus.
Maria SHEHADE and Kalliopi FOUSEKI from the University College London delivered their talk on how individual’s rights to private property can clash with rights to cultural property, as public benefit. In their paper Critical approaches to the legal regulation of heritage: bridging the gap between human and cultural rights, they proposed a critical approach, using the Acropolis museum in Athens as a case study. They argue to what extent can the preservation of cultural heritage impact upon individuals’ rights, as the controversial construction of the Acropolis museum caused 150 families to be displaced in order to construct the edifice. Moreover, an important archaeological site was uncovered during the construction of the museum which only heightened the tensions with the public. Plans were also made to demolish listed buildings as they obstructed the view of the acropolis from the museum, although these plans were abandoned after public disapproval. They raise the question of who defines public benefit and whether archaeologists have the right to make decisions which have a significant impact upon the lives of everyday citizens. Whilst these decisions are legal, can they not also be made upon ethical grounds?
They believe that a fair balance must be achieved so that both cultural heritage is protected and people are not deprived of their property rights. This implies that archaeology must reconnect with its social context, which includes the participation and consultation of local citizens.
The keynote speaker, Professor Helaine SILVERMANN, from the department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, delivered a Keynote talk on the Instrumentalities and Realities in Heritage Ethics, where she highlighted that heritage sites are almost always universally contested. The protection of cultural rights, as well as the conservation and perpetuation of heritage resources is guaranteed by national legislation and international accords, nevertheless conflict often arises when competing stakeholders, such as governments, local communities or tour companies lay claim to these heritage sites. The mass tourism which affects local populations and dilutes local customs, political strife and contrasting value systems among stakeholders contribute to these disputes. Whilst the disagreements are most often resolved through negotiation and compromise, in some cases force and intimidation is used in order to reach an agreement.
Silvermann demonstrated the need to adopt a rights-based approach to heritage management, in order to establish an ethical platform which can provide a form of social and economic justice for all stakeholders. Silvermann illustrates this point with case studies such as Easter Island, Luang Prabang in Laos, Deir el Bahri in Egypt whilst also engaging with the challenges of implementing such rights-based approaches.
The discussion which ensued addressed the association of poverty and looting, and whether this was applicable in a UK setting.
AFTERNOON SESSION ON ‘HERITAGE, (POST) CONFLICT AND CONFLICT PREVENTION’. CHAIRED BY MARCUS DEAN.
Michael Angelo LIWANAG initiated the session with his presentation on Ethical Guidelines for the selection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as a potential conflict prevention measure for the World Heritage Committee. The presentation highlighted the necessity, desirability, feasibility, viability and operability of guidelines based on ethical principles in preventing conflicts which result from disputed and ethically nominated sites.
The subsequent talk was delivered by Andreas PANTAZATOS, who presented a study case of looted Etruscan art. He proceeded to ask how can looting be prevented if heritage means the sharing of knowledge? He then introduced the concepts of epistemic goods and epistemic stakeholders. His philosophic discourse stimulated an exciting discussion session on the “the epistemic question”. What is the difference between a vandal and an archaeologist when both of them take the objects from the site, but one with authorization, and another without authorization, particularly when in many cases the vandal knows more about the local treasure than the archaeologist?
Sophie Vigneron read on behalf of Nawel YOUNSI, a talk entitled Between preservation and restoration of identity and heritage; the case of Algeria. In order to fully understand Algerian heritage, it is necessary to consider the 130 years of colonial occupation which culminated in Algeria’s independence in 1962. During the colonial era, Roman archaeology in the north of the country was used to justify French colonization in the area, and the vernacular Amagigh heritage was left relatively unstudied. However, since 2005 the Algerian constitution recognizes that Islam, Arabism and Amazigh are core components of the identity of Algerian people. This campaign brought about a new awareness of cultural heritage, however it equally stimulated an increased interest in Amazigh artefacts, which has led to further looting. Further efforts are being made in order to retrieve heritage which was lost due to internal conflict during the ‘black decade’.
Paul BENNETT’s presentation provided an insight into Libya’s spectacular archaeological sites. However, he also emphasized the heritage challenges that the new Libyan state faces, focusing on the case of Cyrenaica. He charted the over-development which took place at this site. He recognized that there was a need for development, and that many development projects were being carried out without assessing their impact on Libya’s cultural legacy. This is due, in part, to the lack of planning regulations and archaeological records, which can be seen as a reaction to the strict laws that existed under the previous regime. He highlights the need for new system which provides title of land ownerships.
In his talk on Violations of Heritage Buildings in Mansoura city since the Revolution of January 2011, Mohand ALI FOUDA highlighted the heritage challenges that Egypt faces subsequent to the political unrest of 2011. With a particular emphasis on Mansoura, he examined the acts of vandalism and destruction of heritage that occurred during the political protests that erupted in many cities around Egypt. Many acts of vandalism and destruction were specifically targeted at heritage buildings at different sites due to disabled laws and the absence of law enforcement. He then presented case studies to demonstrate the extent of the destruction in the city of Mansoura which were vandalized or destroyed due to economic reasons and in political protest.
The conference concluded with a talk by Jihane CHEDOUKI who provided an overview of the situation of heritage sites in the Arab world, which is undergoing significant political changes. She explained that many heritage sites have been destroyed due to conflict, vandalism and illegal trafficking, and that little or limited action is taken by the authorities in order to secure and preserve heritage sites. She suggests that a notion of a ‘moral function’ of cultural heritage should be introduced into Arab legislation, as it could help to raise awareness of the importance of heritage and its links to history, science and art in the Arab world. This in turn could help to prevent vandalism and looting in local areas.