今天在我拿到的這一份裡，我看到了一篇文章，標題叫做"Who Draws the Borders of Culture?"
Siding with the imperialists drives good people bonkers, I know. It's akin to Yankees worship, with the Greeks playing the underdog role of the old Red Sox. That said, patrimony claims too often serve merely nationalist ends these days, no less often than they do decent ones, never mind that the archaeological and legal arguments by the Greeks, while elaborately reasoned and passionately felt, don't finally trump the British ones.
Mostly, though, the issue comes down to the fact that culture, while it can have deeply rooted, special meanings to specific people, doesn't belong to anyone in the grand scheme of things. It doesn't stand still. When Walter Benjamin wrote in the last century about the original or authentic work of art losing its aura, he was in part suggesting that the past is not something we can just return to whenever we like — it's not something fixed and always available. It's something forever beyond our grasp, which we must reinvent to make present.
Today's Acropolis is itself a kind of fiction. Over the centuries and through succeeding empires and regimes, it became Christian and Turkish, and briefly Venetian, after it had been Roman. The Parthenon was a pagan temple, a church, a mosque, an arms depot (disastrously, under the Turks) and even a place from which the Nazis hung a big swastika flag whose removal by Greek patriots helped spur a resistance movement. Modernity has mostly stripped the site of all those layers of history to recover a Periclean-era past that represents, because it has come to mean the most to us, its supposed true self — a process of archeological excavation, based on another modern kind of fiction about historical and scientific objectivity that inevitably adds its own layer of history.︴
But the general question, looting and tourist dollars aside, is why should any objects necessarily reside in the modern nation-state controlling the plot of land where, at one time, perhaps thousands of years earlier, they came from? The question goes to the heart of how culture operates in a global age.
Italy recently celebrated the return of a national treasure after the Metropolitan Museum gave back a sixth-century B.C. Greek krater by the painter Euphronius that tomb robbers dug up outside Rome during the 1970s. Stolen property is stolen property. But how curious that an ancient Greek vase, which centuries after it was made came into the possession of an Etruscan collector (a kind of ancient Elgin) living on what is now the outskirts of Rome, and then ended up buried for thousands of years below what became modern Italy, is today Italian cultural patrimony. By that definition, Elgin's loot is arguably British patrimony.
It’s not coincidental that conflicts over patrimony have accelerated in recent decades thanks to globalizing trends: the increasing circulation of information along with objects and money — consequences of the Web, jet travel and mass tourism — and the evolution of institutions like the British Museum from sleepy, scholarly repositories of artifacts into entertainment palaces and virtual town squares. Authorities in countries like Greece, having seen the escalating economic and symbolic value of works like the marbles, have naturally sought to take advantage.
But as the Princeton philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah has cautioned about the whole patrimony question: “We should remind ourselves of other connections. One connection — the one neglected in talk of cultural patrimony — is the connection not through identity but despite difference.”
What he means is that people make connections across cultures through objects like the marbles. These objects can become handmaidens for ideologues, instruments for social division and tools of the economy, or cicerones through history and oracles to a more perfect union of nations. Art is something made in a particular place by particular people, and may serve a particular function at one time but obtain different meanings at other times. It summons distinct feelings to those for whom it’s local, but ultimately belongs to everyone and to no one.
We’re all custodians of global culture for posterity.
Neither today’s Greeks nor Britons own the Parthenon marbles, really.
最後那一句「Neither today’s Greeks nor Britons own the Parthenon marbles」更是虛偽，