Cultural property disputes raise questions of ownership, possession, alleged destruction, and looting. They are also affected by legal vacuums, and idiosyncratic statutes of limitations. Should objects of cultural heritage that have been removed in the past be returned to their source nation? This article discusses the perennial claim Greece made to the British Museum for the return of a collection of sculptures from the Parthenon and the Acropolis of Athens. This article identifies a trajectory towards a more effective approach on cultural property disputes transcending the traditional ownership versus value debate. It advocates a shift of the discussion from one of legal title and ownership to one of negotiation, cooperation, and advancement of both nationalist and internationalist ideals. This article adds a new spin to an old unresolved debate by advancing two primary arguments: (1) an inalienability argument based on Margaret Radin's theory of personhood; and, in the alternative, (2) a reassessment of the cultural nationalism/internationalism debate, and a negotiation strategy based on prior successful returns of cultural property objects. First, Margaret Radin's theory of personhood gives the country of origin a normative argument against typical commensurate perceptions of property. Second, and in the alternative, instead of approaching cultural nationalism and internationalism as mutually exclusive, the two can flourish together under clarified objectives that do not mesh with each other's agendas but rather bolster one another. Finally, this article examines successful return strategies under this new integrated cultural nationalism/internationalism approach using the Four Quadrant Negotiation Model. Ideas such as loan agreements, trading and exchange of cultural artifacts, touring collections, exclusive excavation agreements, joint trusteeship, fractional ownership, personnel education, and liability waivers provide starting points in a negotiation on how to form a partnership between Greece and the British Museum that will promote collaboration, international exchange of cultural heritage, public access, and education.
University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law
The Parthenon marbles revisited: A new strategy for Greece,
U. Pa. J. Int’l L.
Available at: https://scholarlycommons.pacific.edu/facultyarticles/403