Are outdated imperialistic sentiments to blame for Britain’s stance on repatriation?

An article published  yesterday in the Guardian highlighted the difficulties of repatriating looted artefacts.

On the 21 February 2013, Mr Cameron visited Amritsar in India.During his visit he was asked whether  he supported returning the Koh-i-Noor diamond.He replied:

I don’t think that is the right approach. It’s the same question with the Elgin Marbles and all these other things … No, I certainly don’t believe in ‘returnism‘, as it were. I don’t think that is sensible.

The diamond was taken in the mid-19th century by the East India Company as a token of its newly established colonial rule in Punjab. Following Mr Cameron’s comments a group of Bollywood stars and businessmen are about to initiate proceedings in London’s high court to return the 105-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond.

The Crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, with the Koh-i-noor diamond, sits in the Tower of London with the Crown Jewels

The Crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, with the Koh-i-noor diamond, sits in the Tower of London with the Crown Jewels

In the last couple of years there has been a lot of media attention surrounding the possibility of litigation for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures, though so far the Greek government has made it clear they prefer to stick with a more diplomatic route for the time being, though the possibility of litigation remains open.

In his article Mr Julian Baggini comments on Britain’s stance with regards to various repatriation claims:

There is something profoundly distasteful about western countries refusing to return any of their ill-gotten gains. The legacy of imperialism still leaves deep wounds around the world, and when countries like Britain take no steps to atone for their pillage, that only reinforces grievances.

He also suggests that repatriation claims could be dealt with at UN-level providing all nation states agree to abide by the UN’s conclusions.

We need to find some way of balancing the legitimate claims of plundered nations without sliding down the slippery slope that ends with everything returned to its place of origin. This can’t be done by fighting battles over individual objects. We need some kind of commission to look at the whole issue in the round, and come up with fair principles to determine what should be kept where. Ideally, this would be at UN level, with nation states agreeing to abide by its conclusions. In the absence of this, Britain ought to take this step unilaterally. It would be a bold move for any government to willingly relinquish ownership of potentially thousands of objects, but such an act would be a potent symbol that we have rejected our imperial values once and for all.

It should, however, be noted that the matter of repatriation of the Parthenon Sculptures has been on the UNESCO agenda since 1987, but each time Britain refuses to engage into discussion on this. Britain also showed utter disregard for the initiation of the UNESCO mediation process, even after the Director General gave a strong recommendation for Britain to participate.  Mr Baggini condemns Britain’s ongoing dismissive stance and alerts readers to the consequences if a proactive solution is not found:

But if it does not, eventually a case such as the one to return Koh-i-Noor might succeed in some court or other. The knock-on effects of that might well make us rue not taking early steps to resolve the issue in a more systematic and orderly way.

From The Guardian

Related articles:

David Cameron: I certainly don’t believe in ‘returnism’

Cameron’s views on ‘returnism’ condemmned

FacebookTwitterGoogle+

One Comment

on “Are outdated imperialistic sentiments to blame for Britain’s stance on repatriation?
One Comment on “Are outdated imperialistic sentiments to blame for Britain’s stance on repatriation?
  1. While attempting to pressure the British Government, UNESCO shows utter disregard of the Parthenon sculptures situated just a few streets away from their headquarters in Paris.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>