X Close

The Age of the Museum is over Identity politics has delivered a killer blow to anthropology

RIP the British Museum. (Mike Kemp/In Pictures/ Getty)

RIP the British Museum. (Mike Kemp/In Pictures/ Getty)


August 29, 2023   9 mins

A decade ago, I spent more months than originally desired living in the bush of Sudan’s remote and war-torn Blue Nile state with SPLA-N rebels from the Uduk tribe, whose 20,000 odd members had found themselves stranded, by an accident of British imperial cartography, within an Arab Muslim state they despised. It was a strange and formative experience for a young journalist who had only recently left graduate studies at Oxford’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology — an institution whose ethos, as a result of the apostolic succession unique to the discipline, derived from the foundational texts on Sudan’s tribal culture and political order written by British Social Anthropology’s 20th century giants.

After weeks of growing intimacy, the most bookish of the rebel commanders confided in me that only one westerner, more than a century previously, had ever learned the Uduk language and mastered their ancient belief system, since hidden beneath a light veil of Christianity. That long-dead westerner had written a book on the Uduk, which was now their prize possession, he told me. Retrieving it, wrapped in a cloth like a sacred text from within a thatched tukul hut, he showed me the well-thumbed work, now devoid of covers and binding: it transpired to be an ethnographic text published in 1979 by the very-much-alive Oxford anthropologist Wendy James, whose seminars on Sudan I had eagerly attended just a few years previously.

There is revealed the great ambiguity at the heart of anthropology, a discipline now threatened by the wave of postcolonial fervour crashing on our shores. As Perry Anderson remarked in 1968, Britain’s “brilliant and flourishing” tradition of Social Anthropology” — a discipline until recently distinguished from its American cousin, Cultural Anthropology, by its empirical focus on political and social order — was the nation’s sole significant contribution to 20th century intellectual theory. Yet the foundational texts were written within the context of imperial rule, by academics who either moonlighted as colonial administrators or depended on the pacification of newly-conquered natives to comfortably undertake their research, casting the discipline under a shadow of suspicion from which it has never fully emerged.

In her 1973 essay “The Anthropologist as Reluctant Imperialist“, Wendy James mounted a cautious defence of the discipline within the imperial context. Struggling, in the first flush of postcolonial enthusiasm, to reject the claim of Third World activists that anthropology was a reactionary handmaiden of colonialism, which functioned to preserve oppressive native hierarchies in aspic at the point of contact, James made the case for anthropologists as liberal critics of colonial administration, defenders of small-scale societies as coherent and sophisticated polities whose customs and social order were worthy of respect by a dismissive imperial centre.

Yet while James struggled to reject accusations of reactionary sentiment in recasting anthropologists as liberal critics of colonialism, from the perspective of today’s all-pervading culture war, an alternative argument could be made: it was precisely the reactionary desire to record and then to preserve pre-modern cultures from the corrosive effects of modernity that motivated the discipline at its height, and which was its greatest moral strength. For the 21st-century reactionary, who rejects the homogenising effects of liberal modernity, each individual human culture is precious and unique, a universe in itself.

For the Uduk, James’ careful work of ethnography preserved an orally-transmitted cosmology they are even now in the process of discarding. Just as British anthropologists in Sudan either moonlighted as colonial administrators or worked within the stable regime colonial order provided, British colonial administrators governed what is today South Sudan almost as a real-world ethnographic museum, banning Arabs from what is now Sudan from entry and preserving a complex constellation of tribal societies from the enforced Arabisation which, following Britain’s departure, they only shook off through a long and bloody conflict. The Uduks’ greatest lament is not that Britain kept South Sudan in tribal stasis, but that their tribe was unfairly disbarred from colonialism’s curatorial care.

Yet this ambiguous record of cultural engagement and preservation is threatened by today’s moralising postcolonial discourse, and it is anthropology’s outward-facing showpiece, the ethnographic museum, that is its fiercest contemporary battleground. Consider the sad case of Oxford’s Pitt-Rivers Museum, until recently a museum of museums whose lovingly-preserved Victorian layout functioned as a visual expression of the discipline’s early theoretical worldview. Its great crowd pleaser, the South American shrunken heads that have delighted generations of shrieking children, have now been removed from view, their display case literally shrouded in an expression of the fearful new taboos now governing our society. For curators like the archetypal Twitter don Dan Hicks, the Pitt Rivers is barely distinguishable from a serial killer’s collection of trophies: “brutish museums like the Pitt Rivers where I work have compounded killings, cultural destructions and thefts with the propaganda of race science, with the normalisation of the display of human cultures in material form. An act of dehumanisation in the face of dispossession lies at the heart of the operation of the brutish museums.”

On and on Hicks writes in 2020’s The Brutish Museums, roping in Trump and Brexit in increasingly overwrought prose future historians will surely cherish as a perfect distillation of our contemporary moment. “As the border is to the nation state, so the museum is to empire,” Hicks insists: “two devices for the classification of humans into types.” Well, yes, the reader is compelled to respond: the idea that human societies differ from each other in meaningful ways is not only true, but is the basis of anthropology. All cultures are bounded, by their nature: a borderless world is in practice merely a new form of cultural imperialism, now spread by progressivism’s zealous missionaries, like Hicks.

In his recent book The Museum of Other People, the anthropologist Adam Kuper— an ethnographer of anthropology, whose classic Anthropology and Anthropologists is a set text for British undergraduates — wearily documents how the intrusion of the new American ideology erodes the very foundations of the ethnographic museum. As Kuper notes laconically, with the empirical distance that once marked the discipline, in North America “a romantic conception of identity was revived in the 1960s” in “a development that greatly surprised many social scientists: far from melting away, ethnic identities were reasserted, and they were now viewed positively. Identity had become a political issue again.” This essentialised identity discourse, the sea in which our current progressive museum curators swim, is no more natural or unworthy of objective study than 19th-century nationalism, yet it is now so embedded within our institutions as to pass unremarked. Even to notice it casts the observer in the unwanted role of culture warrior, fighting vainly against the march of progress like 19th-century tribesmen against the approaching gunboats.

The result, the “vapid New Age platitudes” that dominate Washington’s National Museum of the American Indian or the mythicising narratives of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (which “does not mention that those slaves were captured by soldiers of African kingdoms who then marched them to the ports to be sold”) have drifted over from the imperial metropole to us in the periphery, with the consequence that “it was soon widely accepted in the growing field of post­colonial studies that only the native can understand the native. Foreign ‘experts’ (always referenced in scare quotes) are suspect, scholarship discounted.”

Indeed, Kuper notes sadly, “this is apparently now the official view at the Pitt Rivers Museum”, whose director, Laura Van Broeckhoeven, communes with tribal elders in rituals to determine which artefacts she may display and which must be returned. As for the shrunken heads, whose photographic representation Kuper was refused permission to reproduce in an email noting ‘‘the image you suggest is of the display which was removed last summer out of respect for the people involved”, he remarks with disbelief: “The people involved! Who were they, who consulted them, what in fact did ‘they’ believe, and why were they (whoever they were) given the right to determine the policy of a famous and long-­established university museum?” Whether the stakeholders consulted were the tribe who shrank the heads, or the neighbouring tribe whose heads were unwillingly shrunk, remains a mystery.

Though no conservative cultural warrior, Kuper nevertheless sounds like any Telegraph or Spectator columnist in bemoaning the submission to the new ideology that has rapidly overtaken our ethnographic museums. Of the Benin Bronzes held by both the Pitt Rivers and our troubled national institution, the British Museum, Kuper observes that the case for restitution is not as simple as either Hicks or the more temperate writer Barnaby Phillips asserts. Looted by conquering British troops in 1897 as part of the bloody punitive expedition to unseat the recalcitrant Edo oba, or king, the moral case for the return of the bronzes (in fact a collection of brass and ivory sculptures of extraordinary grace and workmanship) is, at least superficially, strong. Yet like Phillips, and unlike Hicks, Kuper observes that Nigeria’s record of custodianship is not impeccable: “three of the bronze plaques sent to Lagos in 1950 by the British Museum had somehow ended up in Ameri­can collections. In 1980, during a brief oil boom, the Nigerian government bought some brass heads at auction. Several soon turned up again on the international market.”

Yet while Kuper makes the incontrovertible point that “given the poor performance of the national museum service in conserving and displaying Nigeria’s own antiquities, there is ample room for scepticism” over the country’s demands for restitution, his argument would be more compelling were the British Museum not itself now embroiled in a scandal deriving from the magpie tendencies of one of its curators, and the inexplicable lack of cataloguing the case has revealed. Though the artefacts apparently sold on Ebay by their errant custodian do not include any of the Museum’s African collections, the Nigerian government has nevertheless used the scandal to revive its claims for the bronzes.

Yet who the bronzes ought to be returned to is not immediately obvious: to today’s Edo oba, whose claim and vision for their custodianship is quite at odds with that of his local rival, the Benin City authorities? To the Nigerian central government, the very existence of which is a product of the same historical story of conquest and imposed political order that brought the bronzes (and latterly, some 200,000 British Nigerians) to Britain? Even some contemporary African-Americans now demand their possession, on the basis that the brass they were forged from was the European payment for their own ancestors’ subjection.

As an undergraduate, I had the privilege to handle the ornate sword and engraved pistol of the last sultan of Darfur, Ali Dinar, whose kingdom was conquered and annexed to Sudan by British troops in 1916, and whose weapons were taken as war booty, ultimately to Durham University’s Sudan Archive. Should they be returned, and if so, to whom? To the Fur people, living in refugee camps far from home? Or to the war-wracked Sudanese state whose militias oppress them? Far from a simple narrative of looting and restitution, these questions become more complex and ambiguous the more they are looked at: it is precisely to unearth these complexities, to ask questions that may not have satisfactory answers, that anthropology is for — or was for, anyway.

Indeed, a single-minded devotion to the British Empire as a unique evil whose blood-guilt is only to be expiated through the dispersal of museum collections is a manner of inverted narcissism, which instead of viewing other societies as objects of fascination and study in themselves, views them solely through the prism of colonial conquest. Hicks’ aim, “to redefine [ethnographic museums] as public spaces, sites of conscience, in which to face up to the ultraviolence of Britain’s colonial past in Africa, and its enduring nature” is, itself, a double form of cultural colonialism. First, by emphasising the Victorian conqueror as the prime agent of history, the prism through which all other societies must be understood as passive victims, and second, in a worldview made explicit by Hicks’ then-modish expressions of fealty to the Black Lives Matter movement, through suborning the complex and ambiguous record of European imperialism to the culturally-specific racial politics of the contemporary United States. Hicks condemns his Victorian antecedents for “the claim — to which archaeologists and anthropologists were called as witness, as judge and as jury… of scientific proof that there could be no civilisation outside of white Euro-America”, quite unaware that he is replicating the process, having only updated their civilising fervour for that of today’s dominant empire.

Even before his resignation last week, the British Museum’s director, Hartwig Fischer, struggled to reconcile the institution’s African collections with the mores of contemporary progressivism. Despite his genuflection to Black Lives Matter during the moral fervour of 2020, insisting the British Museum “has done a lot of work – accelerated and enlarged its work on its own history, the history of empire, the history of colonialism, and also of slavery” and is “aligned with the spirit and soul of Black Lives Matter everywhere”, Fischer maintained that “‘the collections have to be preserved as a whole”. Yet at heart, the beliefs encoded within contemporary postcolonial discourse strike at the very essence of cross-cultural understanding at all:  the great age of the ethnographic museum is already past, struck dead by the racialised identity politics of our own imperial master.

Echoing these irreconcilable tensions, Kuper’s book ends on a desperate plea for “a Cosmopolitan Museum, one that tran­scends ethnic and national identities, makes comparisons, draws out connections, tracks exchanges across political frontiers, challenges boundaries: a museum set in the shifting sands of the past and the present but which is informed by rigorous, critical, independent scholarship”. It may be an attractive vision, but that world is already past, lost in the romantic, essentialising tide of ethnic self-regard that Americanised progressivism has bafflingly revived, whose historical course we are only beginning to chart. Kuper’s now-archaic cosmopolitanism, which appears conservative to contemporary mores, only highlights that conservatism is merely yesterday’s liberalism.

For all the British Museum stakes its claim to possession of the Benin Bronzes as artworks of shared humanity, it is the rightfulness of ethnic ownership that now strikes the contemporary observer as natural and just, perhaps correctly. The ethnographic museum is itself an artefact of a lost culture, like the Pitt Rivers’ occluded shrunken heads — an exotic curio of a society and worldview that no longer exists. “Are certain kinds of knowledge encoded in racial memory?” Kuper asks rhetorically, certain that any right-thinking person will disagree. Surveying the discourse of the moment, and the unstable definitions of indigeneity whose full consequences are yet to reveal themselves politically, the answer must be that that is indeed the spirit of the age. Now the chips must fall as they will, even if the results will surely not be those for which progressives dream.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

arisroussinos

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

94 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Frank Carney
Frank Carney
8 months ago

A very judicious analysis by Aris. It is difficult to see how museums are going to extricate themselves from the ever tightening knot around their necks created by progressive ideology and their traditional role.

I am increasingly perturbed by the indiscriminate use of the word “loot” in current discourse. I am sure that much of any museum’s collection was gifted by an item’s creator/first owner or purchased in a fair transaction. Perhaps museums, rather than waste their time trying to keep up with the latest in progressive ideology, would better spend their time cataloging which are gifts and purchases and which genuine loot (and perhaps also recording under what circumstances and from whom they were seized) the better to resist claims on what’s left of their collections.

Last edited 8 months ago by Frank Carney
Steven Carr
Steven Carr
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

What is the difference between ‘loot’ and seizing yachts belonging to Russian oligarchs?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

None.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Do those yachts now belong to museums?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Perhaps they could turn Earl’s Court into an annex of the BM?

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
8 months ago

Sadly now torn down in another act of cultural vandalism 🙂

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

Thanks, I had no idea!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

Thanks, I had no idea!

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
8 months ago

Sadly now torn down in another act of cultural vandalism 🙂

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Perhaps they could turn Earl’s Court into an annex of the BM?

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Off-shore banks.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

None.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Do those yachts now belong to museums?

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Off-shore banks.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

“…Perhaps museums, rather than waste their time trying to keep up with the latest in progressive ideology, would better spend their time cataloging…”

The point of the author’s article, is that this can no longer possibly happen, as those who deem themselves Guardians of the museums, both self-appointed and actual, are now all actively engaged in the destruction of their charges, all in the name of ideologies which will undoubtedly disappear in short order, since having destroyed what you are in charge of, you will be left with a vacuum, which these hypocrites will fill with their self-justifying self-regard.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The British Museum is dismantling itself from within, via e-bay and car- boot sales.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

If the Elgin Marbles weren’t so damned heavy they would have ended up in the Portobello Road years ago.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

True. When I bought the real ones, it was defo Golborne Road Market.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

They just don’t compare to all that chintzy Potteries tat

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

True. When I bought the real ones, it was defo Golborne Road Market.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

They just don’t compare to all that chintzy Potteries tat

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

If the Elgin Marbles weren’t so damned heavy they would have ended up in the Portobello Road years ago.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Who would pay to see them?

Frank Carney
Frank Carney
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I believe you are right. My prescription was for what they SHOULD be doing, not what they WILL do.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
7 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

What gets me is the arrogance of museum employees. They take millions in funding but refuse to accept that people want to see the artefacts without being preached at

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The British Museum is dismantling itself from within, via e-bay and car- boot sales.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Who would pay to see them?

Frank Carney
Frank Carney
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I believe you are right. My prescription was for what they SHOULD be doing, not what they WILL do.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
7 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

What gets me is the arrogance of museum employees. They take millions in funding but refuse to accept that people want to see the artefacts without being preached at

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

It’s not just museums, though, is it? Academic discipline – western civilisation as a whole is being hollowed out by gnostic, narcissistic urges to moral supremacy through self-destruction, and even the sciences are not immune. Consider this creature Hicks. It would seem that for him collecting, examining, comparing, preserving and prizing some object is to cast oneself as “superior”, as “judge and jury”, when anyone can see that his splenetic denunciation rests upon the ambiguity of the word “judge”: it can mean “to assess” or it can mean “to rank” and finally it means “to condemn”. We all know which one he prefers, the odious idiot. Many of us have been aware for a long time that sound, well constructed disciplines such as anthropology are caught in the cross-hairs of the lying, swinish Left, precisely because they offer evidence, apropos of human nature, which shatters primitive Marxist theories – now there’s a body of doctrine ripe for anthropological take down. Dated? Certainly. Resting on a number of euro-centric suppositions? Of course. Imperialist? Without a doubt. In place of sound disciplines, meanwhile, the same swinish Left is substituting tendentious indoctrination, the sort of rubbish touted with such portentous pomposity by the “professors” of “critical race theory”, which amounts to no more than the systematic hatred of ethnic Europeans. Frankly, with the educated class so badly colonised – yes, colonised – by what the great Gad Saad calls parasitic ideologies – we might as well turn the tables on them with a purge, sacking them from museums and academies and replacing them wholesale, with intelligent refugees from Hong Kong.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Indeed. What greater respect could one show an oral culture than to learn its language and write a book about it, so as to record and preserve it? I don’t suppose Hicks is capable of such a thing.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
8 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Well said. The Hicks of this world are beneath contempt.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Especially a culture with a population of 20,000, which is less than the student body of a typical State University.
I’m sorry for the sarcasm and thickness, but isn’t is symbolic that an anthropologist could spend a significant portion of their life studying a culture of excruciatingly minuscule significance whilst Rome burned? How utterly privileged.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
8 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Nice work if you can get it. I wouldn’t begrudge it them.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
8 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Nice work if you can get it. I wouldn’t begrudge it them.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
8 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Well said. The Hicks of this world are beneath contempt.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Especially a culture with a population of 20,000, which is less than the student body of a typical State University.
I’m sorry for the sarcasm and thickness, but isn’t is symbolic that an anthropologist could spend a significant portion of their life studying a culture of excruciatingly minuscule significance whilst Rome burned? How utterly privileged.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

It is a great pity we don’t have someone of the calibre of the late great, Lee Kuan Yew to appoint as ‘Witchfinder General’ for the Universities.
Only someone of his resolve could cleanse the foulness of ‘Augean stables’ which these institutions have become.

As to Hicks, a perfect example of a foul mouthed oik, who carries so many chips it’s hard to know where to begin. Undoubtedly being an 11 year old living in Co Durham during the disastrous’Miner’s Strike’ can’t have helped!

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
8 months ago

I couldn’t agree more. Lee Kuan Yew was among the greatest statesmen of the post-war world – unpopular with the usual ruck of academic pinkos, of course…

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
8 months ago

I couldn’t agree more. Lee Kuan Yew was among the greatest statesmen of the post-war world – unpopular with the usual ruck of academic pinkos, of course…

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I think your response is exceptional, I would just quip with the idea of Anthropology being a true “science.” It appears to be the intersection of Science and storytelling. To me Anthropology is the field that Marxism, IE Gnostic Hermetics have always manipulated the most to fill their Historical Narrative.

While Anthropology relies on a lot of hard science like Geology and Paleontology, it’s also a highly speculative field by nature. We simply can’t reconstruct the past without a time machine. So while certain elements of Anthropology may be valid insights based on sound science, it is especially prone to grand narrative weaving and storytelling.

This one of the few areas the Postmodernists correctly identified IMO. There is a tendency of Anthropology to create an illusory “Epistemology of Science” when much of the Science is far from settled. In my view, Anthropology is a constructive academic project but often treats itself like a Magisterial Gatekeeper of truth claims.

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. In fact, I reread x2. Thanks!

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Indeed. What greater respect could one show an oral culture than to learn its language and write a book about it, so as to record and preserve it? I don’t suppose Hicks is capable of such a thing.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

It is a great pity we don’t have someone of the calibre of the late great, Lee Kuan Yew to appoint as ‘Witchfinder General’ for the Universities.
Only someone of his resolve could cleanse the foulness of ‘Augean stables’ which these institutions have become.

As to Hicks, a perfect example of a foul mouthed oik, who carries so many chips it’s hard to know where to begin. Undoubtedly being an 11 year old living in Co Durham during the disastrous’Miner’s Strike’ can’t have helped!

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I think your response is exceptional, I would just quip with the idea of Anthropology being a true “science.” It appears to be the intersection of Science and storytelling. To me Anthropology is the field that Marxism, IE Gnostic Hermetics have always manipulated the most to fill their Historical Narrative.

While Anthropology relies on a lot of hard science like Geology and Paleontology, it’s also a highly speculative field by nature. We simply can’t reconstruct the past without a time machine. So while certain elements of Anthropology may be valid insights based on sound science, it is especially prone to grand narrative weaving and storytelling.

This one of the few areas the Postmodernists correctly identified IMO. There is a tendency of Anthropology to create an illusory “Epistemology of Science” when much of the Science is far from settled. In my view, Anthropology is a constructive academic project but often treats itself like a Magisterial Gatekeeper of truth claims.

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. In fact, I reread x2. Thanks!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

My parents had two ancient Egyptian scarabs that they donated to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. How two New England art teachers came into such treasures I have no idea, and I doubt they knew, either.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Post 1634 Imperial plunder?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

If that were the case, Charles, my ancestors in the New World wouldn’t have got hold of them; they’d still be in England.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Trade perhaps?
Incidentally, and without wishing to pry are you a DAR?

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

I qualified and went to a few events, but I was a young mother and all the other women were more than twice my age, so I just let it drop. Interestingly, the national organization sponsored an essay contest on patriotism for 5th and 6th graders, and my daughter won the regional title.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

I qualified and went to a few events, but I was a young mother and all the other women were more than twice my age, so I just let it drop. Interestingly, the national organization sponsored an essay contest on patriotism for 5th and 6th graders, and my daughter won the regional title.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Trade perhaps?
Incidentally, and without wishing to pry are you a DAR?

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

If that were the case, Charles, my ancestors in the New World wouldn’t have got hold of them; they’d still be in England.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
7 months ago

The Egyptian people discovered European appetite for ancient artifacts in the early 19thC and started assiduously selling them. That’s why there are so many mummies and other bits of grave robbery scattered around the world’s museums
I looting ever took place Stuff was given as gifts – eg obelisks- or bought.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Post 1634 Imperial plunder?

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
7 months ago

The Egyptian people discovered European appetite for ancient artifacts in the early 19thC and started assiduously selling them. That’s why there are so many mummies and other bits of grave robbery scattered around the world’s museums
I looting ever took place Stuff was given as gifts – eg obelisks- or bought.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

What is the difference between ‘loot’ and seizing yachts belonging to Russian oligarchs?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

“…Perhaps museums, rather than waste their time trying to keep up with the latest in progressive ideology, would better spend their time cataloging…”

The point of the author’s article, is that this can no longer possibly happen, as those who deem themselves Guardians of the museums, both self-appointed and actual, are now all actively engaged in the destruction of their charges, all in the name of ideologies which will undoubtedly disappear in short order, since having destroyed what you are in charge of, you will be left with a vacuum, which these hypocrites will fill with their self-justifying self-regard.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

It’s not just museums, though, is it? Academic discipline – western civilisation as a whole is being hollowed out by gnostic, narcissistic urges to moral supremacy through self-destruction, and even the sciences are not immune. Consider this creature Hicks. It would seem that for him collecting, examining, comparing, preserving and prizing some object is to cast oneself as “superior”, as “judge and jury”, when anyone can see that his splenetic denunciation rests upon the ambiguity of the word “judge”: it can mean “to assess” or it can mean “to rank” and finally it means “to condemn”. We all know which one he prefers, the odious idiot. Many of us have been aware for a long time that sound, well constructed disciplines such as anthropology are caught in the cross-hairs of the lying, swinish Left, precisely because they offer evidence, apropos of human nature, which shatters primitive Marxist theories – now there’s a body of doctrine ripe for anthropological take down. Dated? Certainly. Resting on a number of euro-centric suppositions? Of course. Imperialist? Without a doubt. In place of sound disciplines, meanwhile, the same swinish Left is substituting tendentious indoctrination, the sort of rubbish touted with such portentous pomposity by the “professors” of “critical race theory”, which amounts to no more than the systematic hatred of ethnic Europeans. Frankly, with the educated class so badly colonised – yes, colonised – by what the great Gad Saad calls parasitic ideologies – we might as well turn the tables on them with a purge, sacking them from museums and academies and replacing them wholesale, with intelligent refugees from Hong Kong.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

My parents had two ancient Egyptian scarabs that they donated to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. How two New England art teachers came into such treasures I have no idea, and I doubt they knew, either.

Frank Carney
Frank Carney
8 months ago

A very judicious analysis by Aris. It is difficult to see how museums are going to extricate themselves from the ever tightening knot around their necks created by progressive ideology and their traditional role.

I am increasingly perturbed by the indiscriminate use of the word “loot” in current discourse. I am sure that much of any museum’s collection was gifted by an item’s creator/first owner or purchased in a fair transaction. Perhaps museums, rather than waste their time trying to keep up with the latest in progressive ideology, would better spend their time cataloging which are gifts and purchases and which genuine loot (and perhaps also recording under what circumstances and from whom they were seized) the better to resist claims on what’s left of their collections.

Last edited 8 months ago by Frank Carney
Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago

Based on a sample of one, I concur with Aris. A visit to Petworth House 18 months ago provided signage about Britain’s role in slavery which was both “force fitted” and historically inaccurate. I didn’t renew my NT membership and wouldn’t. I suspect I am now part of a significant minority who practive commercial activism, with a growing list of organisations never to receive my money. Examples: M&S, Wickes, Starbucks, Paypal, Sainsbury’s, Costa.

Chipoko
Chipoko
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

… Gillette, Budweiser, most (if not all) museums and art galleries, BBC and ITV, etc., etc. … ad nauseam!

James Kirk
James Kirk
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

M&S? Where do the middle aged middle age spread blokes get clothes from? OK for people who don’t use ebay. Paypal is the only medium for purchasing. Some principles are expensive and inconvenient.

Chipoko
Chipoko
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

… Gillette, Budweiser, most (if not all) museums and art galleries, BBC and ITV, etc., etc. … ad nauseam!

James Kirk
James Kirk
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

M&S? Where do the middle aged middle age spread blokes get clothes from? OK for people who don’t use ebay. Paypal is the only medium for purchasing. Some principles are expensive and inconvenient.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago

Based on a sample of one, I concur with Aris. A visit to Petworth House 18 months ago provided signage about Britain’s role in slavery which was both “force fitted” and historically inaccurate. I didn’t renew my NT membership and wouldn’t. I suspect I am now part of a significant minority who practive commercial activism, with a growing list of organisations never to receive my money. Examples: M&S, Wickes, Starbucks, Paypal, Sainsbury’s, Costa.

N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago

What the self-obsessed, conscience-fretting developed world really needs is a an actual Brutish Museum – though not curated by the likes of Dan Hicks (a depressing little scholar-turned-activist). We need a museum that will reveal the history of brutality, cruelty, greed and corruption among those peoples from whom our woke intelligentsia currently urge us to beg forgiveness. In the interests of a balanced and wider understanding of the exercise of power such an institution is sorely needed.
The US could make a start by de-romanticising what we are now obliged to call Native Americans. A museum of NA atrocities and inter-tribal warfare would provide a counterbalance to the popular myths propagated by Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. For many people that hippy-era book is the definitive history of the Indian wars,

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

George MacDonald Fraser’s descriptions of such atrocities in “Flashman and the Redskins” would be another worthy place to start, followed by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.

Glyn R
Glyn R
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Such facts were kept away from school children, college and university students for the very reason we are now seeing played out.
In Gramsci’s own words, he viewed the task thus: “Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. 
 In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
War was declared on Western society and culture a long time ago.

Robert Hochbaum
Robert Hochbaum
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

That’s an excellent point. A museum of the history of brutality and cruelty alone would turn most people’s stomachs. From my reading of the history of the Comanche, the level of brutality shown to anyone who wasn’t Comanche has horrible. It’s inconceivable to someone who lives today, and it wasn’t thousands of years ago that this treatment of ‘the other’ happened. Even the Apache eventually had to flee them (not to mention the Spanish). Similar things can be said about the Sioux/Lakota. But, it was the world as they all knew it so I don’t say it in a demeaning way. North America, just as one example, was a very tough place to live long before ‘the white man’ showed up. I don’t even have words to describe just how pernicious people like Hicks and his ilk are. It infuriates me, mostly, because they know what I and many others know. They’re historians! Yet, they selectivity look back in time to justify a hatred for their culture and themselves.
Hicks must be a lot of fun to have a few beers with.

Last edited 8 months ago by Robert Hochbaum
Andrew Stoll
Andrew Stoll
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Tribalism everywhere only worked with constant warfare and brutality assuring boundaries aren’t transgressed. American Indians, Australian Aborigines, the Balkan’s tribes were far from the enlightened, romantic, civilised peoples which only exist in the imagination of the ignorant. Nobody understands history, it’s little better than a fairy tale to understand the ways of old!

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Stoll

The myth of the Noble Savage has arisen again, and become the epitome of political correctness.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Stoll

The myth of the Noble Savage has arisen again, and become the epitome of political correctness.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

George MacDonald Fraser’s descriptions of such atrocities in “Flashman and the Redskins” would be another worthy place to start, followed by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.

Glyn R
Glyn R
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Such facts were kept away from school children, college and university students for the very reason we are now seeing played out.
In Gramsci’s own words, he viewed the task thus: “Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. 
 In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
War was declared on Western society and culture a long time ago.

Robert Hochbaum
Robert Hochbaum
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

That’s an excellent point. A museum of the history of brutality and cruelty alone would turn most people’s stomachs. From my reading of the history of the Comanche, the level of brutality shown to anyone who wasn’t Comanche has horrible. It’s inconceivable to someone who lives today, and it wasn’t thousands of years ago that this treatment of ‘the other’ happened. Even the Apache eventually had to flee them (not to mention the Spanish). Similar things can be said about the Sioux/Lakota. But, it was the world as they all knew it so I don’t say it in a demeaning way. North America, just as one example, was a very tough place to live long before ‘the white man’ showed up. I don’t even have words to describe just how pernicious people like Hicks and his ilk are. It infuriates me, mostly, because they know what I and many others know. They’re historians! Yet, they selectivity look back in time to justify a hatred for their culture and themselves.
Hicks must be a lot of fun to have a few beers with.

Last edited 8 months ago by Robert Hochbaum
Andrew Stoll
Andrew Stoll
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Tribalism everywhere only worked with constant warfare and brutality assuring boundaries aren’t transgressed. American Indians, Australian Aborigines, the Balkan’s tribes were far from the enlightened, romantic, civilised peoples which only exist in the imagination of the ignorant. Nobody understands history, it’s little better than a fairy tale to understand the ways of old!

N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago

What the self-obsessed, conscience-fretting developed world really needs is a an actual Brutish Museum – though not curated by the likes of Dan Hicks (a depressing little scholar-turned-activist). We need a museum that will reveal the history of brutality, cruelty, greed and corruption among those peoples from whom our woke intelligentsia currently urge us to beg forgiveness. In the interests of a balanced and wider understanding of the exercise of power such an institution is sorely needed.
The US could make a start by de-romanticising what we are now obliged to call Native Americans. A museum of NA atrocities and inter-tribal warfare would provide a counterbalance to the popular myths propagated by Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. For many people that hippy-era book is the definitive history of the Indian wars,

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
8 months ago

As an undergraduate, I had the privilege to handle the ornate sword and engraved pistol of the last sultan of Darfur, Ali Dinar, whose kingdom was conquered and annexed to Sudan by British troops in 1916, and whose weapons were taken as war booty, ultimately to Durham University’s Sudan Archive. Should they be returned, and if so, to whom? To the Fur people, living in refugee camps far from home? Or to the war-wracked Sudanese state whose militias oppress them?

Couldn’t someone set up a “weapons bank”, rather like a food bank, for those less affluent London youths who cannot afford firearms and bladed weapons of their own?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

I cannot imagine anything more thrilling than the prospect of Tipoo Sultan’s bejeweled scimitar, being handed over to some 14 year old hoodlum-in-a-hoodie, in saarf lunnen.

Last edited 8 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Why aren’t they in the Royal Armouries collection in Leeds?

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Wendy Barton
Wendy Barton
8 months ago

Because most of the interesting stuff was kept in London when the white elephant in Leeds was set up.
A sop to the North.

Last edited 8 months ago by Wendy Barton
Wendy Barton
Wendy Barton
8 months ago

Because most of the interesting stuff was kept in London when the white elephant in Leeds was set up.
A sop to the North.

Last edited 8 months ago by Wendy Barton
William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

There’s one in Stockholm and the weapons are in working order.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Plus the tricorn hat of Charles XII!

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Plus the tricorn hat of Charles XII!

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

I cannot imagine anything more thrilling than the prospect of Tipoo Sultan’s bejeweled scimitar, being handed over to some 14 year old hoodlum-in-a-hoodie, in saarf lunnen.

Last edited 8 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Why aren’t they in the Royal Armouries collection in Leeds?

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

There’s one in Stockholm and the weapons are in working order.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
8 months ago

As an undergraduate, I had the privilege to handle the ornate sword and engraved pistol of the last sultan of Darfur, Ali Dinar, whose kingdom was conquered and annexed to Sudan by British troops in 1916, and whose weapons were taken as war booty, ultimately to Durham University’s Sudan Archive. Should they be returned, and if so, to whom? To the Fur people, living in refugee camps far from home? Or to the war-wracked Sudanese state whose militias oppress them?

Couldn’t someone set up a “weapons bank”, rather like a food bank, for those less affluent London youths who cannot afford firearms and bladed weapons of their own?

James van den Heever
James van den Heever
8 months ago

Useful article, thanks. In the discussion of the Benin bronzes, have you perhaps missed out the point (made I think by Nigel Biggar) that the raid on the Benin was in retaliation for the murder of a diplomatic embassy, and that many of them were found covered in the blood of executed slaves. As always, history is more complex than the poorly educated left loonies will credit.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

In the United Staes, Nigel Biggar’s name would be considered racist.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

In the United Staes, Nigel Biggar’s name would be considered racist.

James van den Heever
James van den Heever
8 months ago

Useful article, thanks. In the discussion of the Benin bronzes, have you perhaps missed out the point (made I think by Nigel Biggar) that the raid on the Benin was in retaliation for the murder of a diplomatic embassy, and that many of them were found covered in the blood of executed slaves. As always, history is more complex than the poorly educated left loonies will credit.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
8 months ago

Oh god, it reminds me of how, in the Sixties, people ripped out the fireplaces and the wainscoting and the walk-in larders, and all the decorative aspects of their Edwardian and Victorian houses in the name of modernising. A few decades later, the stripped rooms looked tawdry and depressing.

Jerry K
Jerry K
8 months ago
Reply to  Hilary Easton

…and the bits ripped out are changing hands often for serious money – at least those that are not locked up in museums… 🙂

Jerry K
Jerry K
8 months ago
Reply to  Hilary Easton

…and the bits ripped out are changing hands often for serious money – at least those that are not locked up in museums… 🙂

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
8 months ago

Oh god, it reminds me of how, in the Sixties, people ripped out the fireplaces and the wainscoting and the walk-in larders, and all the decorative aspects of their Edwardian and Victorian houses in the name of modernising. A few decades later, the stripped rooms looked tawdry and depressing.

Caroline Murray
Caroline Murray
8 months ago

… does not mention that those slaves were captured by soldiers of African kingdoms who then marched them to the ports to be sold”. Quite. Can anyone recommend a book about the process of capturing slaves in Africa?

Chipoko
Chipoko
8 months ago

Webb, S.. (2023). The slave trade in Africa: An ongoing holocaust. Yorkshire, Great Britain: Pen & Sword Books Ltd.
This is also available via Amazon Kindle.
Also on Kindle are several good books on the white slave trade (estimated at c.1 million) along Africa’s Barbary and West coasts. These include Native Britons kidnapped from coastal villages in the UK and Ireland.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago

I recently read Paul Lovejoy’s “Transformations: A History of Slavery in Africa.” This is one of the ‘standard’ academic texts on the topic, written by a quasi-Marxist – but despite his best efforts, he is unable to hide the remarkable facts about slavery in Africa. For example, many slaves, particularly in the first couple centuries of the European trade, were not kidnapped in slaving raids but sentenced as criminals or captured in war – and hence their fate was seen by African slavers as just (due punishment for their crimes) or merciful (since the alternative in battle was death). Another fact: slaves’ wellbeing was substantially more protected in American than in Africa, where slaves were used as human sacrifices and where sexual relations with masters was the norm rather than the exception. Most American slave codes had extensive requirements for slave welfare, which of course were not always enforced but which did reflect a theology and ethos of slaveholding quite different from in Africa.
The primary reason abolition happened was not because of a spontaneous moral enlightenment on the part of evangelicals, but because slavery changed. The modernization of the agricultural economy created systems of slave-holding on a scale that was previously unknown in the West. Slaveholdings shifted from small-scale, domestic contexts (where slaves were intimate in family affairs and treated relatively well) to large-scale, plantation operations – where the former links between slave and master were degraded and as a result slaves came to be valued in solely economic terms. This gradually resulted in worse, more impersonal conditions for slaves (both in the New World and Africa), prompting the up-swelling of moral indignation on the part of so many evangelicals.
Sorry, I just read this book a short while ago so much of it is on my mind…!
PS. One thing to bear in mind as you research this topic is that African slavers and slaves were usually illiterate and kept no records (particularly in the centuries before the great Western abolitionist movements), so finding reliable data about these questions is difficult. As a result, people tend to interpret the scarce data according to their own personal ideological predispositions.

Chipoko
Chipoko
8 months ago

Webb, S.. (2023). The slave trade in Africa: An ongoing holocaust. Yorkshire, Great Britain: Pen & Sword Books Ltd.
This is also available via Amazon Kindle.
Also on Kindle are several good books on the white slave trade (estimated at c.1 million) along Africa’s Barbary and West coasts. These include Native Britons kidnapped from coastal villages in the UK and Ireland.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago

I recently read Paul Lovejoy’s “Transformations: A History of Slavery in Africa.” This is one of the ‘standard’ academic texts on the topic, written by a quasi-Marxist – but despite his best efforts, he is unable to hide the remarkable facts about slavery in Africa. For example, many slaves, particularly in the first couple centuries of the European trade, were not kidnapped in slaving raids but sentenced as criminals or captured in war – and hence their fate was seen by African slavers as just (due punishment for their crimes) or merciful (since the alternative in battle was death). Another fact: slaves’ wellbeing was substantially more protected in American than in Africa, where slaves were used as human sacrifices and where sexual relations with masters was the norm rather than the exception. Most American slave codes had extensive requirements for slave welfare, which of course were not always enforced but which did reflect a theology and ethos of slaveholding quite different from in Africa.
The primary reason abolition happened was not because of a spontaneous moral enlightenment on the part of evangelicals, but because slavery changed. The modernization of the agricultural economy created systems of slave-holding on a scale that was previously unknown in the West. Slaveholdings shifted from small-scale, domestic contexts (where slaves were intimate in family affairs and treated relatively well) to large-scale, plantation operations – where the former links between slave and master were degraded and as a result slaves came to be valued in solely economic terms. This gradually resulted in worse, more impersonal conditions for slaves (both in the New World and Africa), prompting the up-swelling of moral indignation on the part of so many evangelicals.
Sorry, I just read this book a short while ago so much of it is on my mind…!
PS. One thing to bear in mind as you research this topic is that African slavers and slaves were usually illiterate and kept no records (particularly in the centuries before the great Western abolitionist movements), so finding reliable data about these questions is difficult. As a result, people tend to interpret the scarce data according to their own personal ideological predispositions.

Caroline Murray
Caroline Murray
8 months ago

… does not mention that those slaves were captured by soldiers of African kingdoms who then marched them to the ports to be sold”. Quite. Can anyone recommend a book about the process of capturing slaves in Africa?

James Kirk
James Kirk
8 months ago

Until the Left are driven out of our institutions and Islam repatriated nobody sensible will visit a doctored past.

James Kirk
James Kirk
8 months ago

Until the Left are driven out of our institutions and Islam repatriated nobody sensible will visit a doctored past.

Adam M
Adam M
8 months ago

Excellent article! Which apart from anything else, highlights that it is the unique collections of artifacts from different places and cultures that is worth preserving as a whole. And the fixation on hiding or returning artifacts to their supposed sources for the reasons stated above, risks destroying the most precious artifact of all. The museum itself!

Adam M
Adam M
8 months ago

Excellent article! Which apart from anything else, highlights that it is the unique collections of artifacts from different places and cultures that is worth preserving as a whole. And the fixation on hiding or returning artifacts to their supposed sources for the reasons stated above, risks destroying the most precious artifact of all. The museum itself!

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago

With Guardians like the progressives, who needs Thanos?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago

With Guardians like the progressives, who needs Thanos?

Steve White
Steve White
8 months ago

As the Anglo husband of an American Indian, I feel like I have something to offer this discussion. To get to the point, first, I don’t believe that all cultures are of equal value. Note, I did not say people. As a Christian, I believe that all people are made in the image of God, and are therefore of more value than any other thing. The most expensive winning racehorse is not as valuable as the most debilitated human being.  
So contrary to the globalist sentiments of the WEF’s philosopher Yuval Harari, I would not tend to say that there are any “useless people”, because I don’t see humanity in the same modern sense as if they are bits to be flipped in a computer, or cogs to turn something in a beastly machine.
As far as Anthropology goes though, I think there is this tendency, particularly of liberals to g to the other extreem and flatten every culture out as if it’s all so precious, and it’s “oh such a shame that (for example) the Aztec’s of Mexico are all gone”. I don’t think we should rush to conclude something like “Certianly the evil Christian Spaniards are to blame, and white imperialism is the great Satan of human existence.”
No, the Aztec people didn’t have anything good to offer, or if they did, it was far outweighed by their mass murderous sacrificial systems. Good riddance to that wicked anti-human culture. That being said, where is German and Italian and French culture going off to? They weren’t so bad, yet they are disappearing (thanks George Soros NGOs!). Also, perhaps whatever you export comes back home to you. As for the USA, RFK Jr. recently said that whatever violence we export will eventually come home to us. I think he might be right.
I think that the way to respect Anthropology today would be for the globalists, who are making such profits off of war to start respecting national sovereignty. Let’s let Russian speakers who live in Eastern Ukraine be Russian speakers, and Hungarian speakers in Western Ukraine continue to speak Hungarian and have their Hungarian culture without needing to oppress them or wipe it all out in a strangely new found (2014) nationalism.
Right Aris? You know what I am talking about. I know you do. I think diplomacy is the path forward, not a neo-colonialism to prop up fiat currencies, or advancing color revolutions and instability in places because some hedge fund billionaires want to carve a disrupted nation up so they can own it all, or because it affects thier personal finances.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve White
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

“I believe that all people are made in the image of God, and are therefore of more value than any other thing.”
Well said, but tell that to an owner of a Bichon Frise!

Geoffrey Kolbe
Geoffrey Kolbe
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

The idea that one culture is more “valuable” than another – and that a Christian culture is superior to all – is rather 19th century. In the 20th century, anthropologists like Ruth Benedict spent their time trying to shake that off. How can you understand one culture throught the lens of another culture…?

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago
Reply to  Geoffrey Kolbe

How can anyone see anything except through their own eyes? Is it really possible to know or understand anything? This is Phil 101. Here’s the response: (to paraphrase Wittgenstein) “Your doubts must be justified, too.”

Last edited 8 months ago by Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago
Reply to  Geoffrey Kolbe

How can anyone see anything except through their own eyes? Is it really possible to know or understand anything? This is Phil 101. Here’s the response: (to paraphrase Wittgenstein) “Your doubts must be justified, too.”

Last edited 8 months ago by Kirk Susong
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

“I believe that all people are made in the image of God, and are therefore of more value than any other thing.”
Well said, but tell that to an owner of a Bichon Frise!

Geoffrey Kolbe
Geoffrey Kolbe
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

The idea that one culture is more “valuable” than another – and that a Christian culture is superior to all – is rather 19th century. In the 20th century, anthropologists like Ruth Benedict spent their time trying to shake that off. How can you understand one culture throught the lens of another culture…?

Steve White
Steve White
8 months ago

As the Anglo husband of an American Indian, I feel like I have something to offer this discussion. To get to the point, first, I don’t believe that all cultures are of equal value. Note, I did not say people. As a Christian, I believe that all people are made in the image of God, and are therefore of more value than any other thing. The most expensive winning racehorse is not as valuable as the most debilitated human being.  
So contrary to the globalist sentiments of the WEF’s philosopher Yuval Harari, I would not tend to say that there are any “useless people”, because I don’t see humanity in the same modern sense as if they are bits to be flipped in a computer, or cogs to turn something in a beastly machine.
As far as Anthropology goes though, I think there is this tendency, particularly of liberals to g to the other extreem and flatten every culture out as if it’s all so precious, and it’s “oh such a shame that (for example) the Aztec’s of Mexico are all gone”. I don’t think we should rush to conclude something like “Certianly the evil Christian Spaniards are to blame, and white imperialism is the great Satan of human existence.”
No, the Aztec people didn’t have anything good to offer, or if they did, it was far outweighed by their mass murderous sacrificial systems. Good riddance to that wicked anti-human culture. That being said, where is German and Italian and French culture going off to? They weren’t so bad, yet they are disappearing (thanks George Soros NGOs!). Also, perhaps whatever you export comes back home to you. As for the USA, RFK Jr. recently said that whatever violence we export will eventually come home to us. I think he might be right.
I think that the way to respect Anthropology today would be for the globalists, who are making such profits off of war to start respecting national sovereignty. Let’s let Russian speakers who live in Eastern Ukraine be Russian speakers, and Hungarian speakers in Western Ukraine continue to speak Hungarian and have their Hungarian culture without needing to oppress them or wipe it all out in a strangely new found (2014) nationalism.
Right Aris? You know what I am talking about. I know you do. I think diplomacy is the path forward, not a neo-colonialism to prop up fiat currencies, or advancing color revolutions and instability in places because some hedge fund billionaires want to carve a disrupted nation up so they can own it all, or because it affects thier personal finances.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve White
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
8 months ago

Good article, but there is an additional factor, namely the indifference with which the young greet anything which is not interactive. People nowadays don’t care about stones and bones.
Museums are missing a trick. A VR museum, with interactive holograms scanned in from the original exhibits.
And parallel narratives – “for tweedy folk, click here for the pro-Empire narrative”; “for raggedy folk, click here for the pro-rebel narrative”; and, “for calm people, click here for the boring middle-of-the-road-narrative.” Porn channel optional. 
Would work a treat.  

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
8 months ago

Good article, but there is an additional factor, namely the indifference with which the young greet anything which is not interactive. People nowadays don’t care about stones and bones.
Museums are missing a trick. A VR museum, with interactive holograms scanned in from the original exhibits.
And parallel narratives – “for tweedy folk, click here for the pro-Empire narrative”; “for raggedy folk, click here for the pro-rebel narrative”; and, “for calm people, click here for the boring middle-of-the-road-narrative.” Porn channel optional. 
Would work a treat.  

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
8 months ago

I notice that the writer mentions the victim museums in Washington DC.
I was recently to DC and was shocked to find that among the victim museums there is no Museum of the American White Trash.
The fact is that one of the most shameful aspects of European Imperialism was the shipping off to parts unknown of the “waste population” created by agricultural “improvement.”
Until this injustice is confessed by every one of our lefty friends they are all nothing but racist-sexist-homophobe-imperialists and should be removed from all positions of honor in universities, museums, and NGOs.

Last edited 8 months ago by Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
8 months ago

I notice that the writer mentions the victim museums in Washington DC.
I was recently to DC and was shocked to find that among the victim museums there is no Museum of the American White Trash.
The fact is that one of the most shameful aspects of European Imperialism was the shipping off to parts unknown of the “waste population” created by agricultural “improvement.”
Until this injustice is confessed by every one of our lefty friends they are all nothing but racist-sexist-homophobe-imperialists and should be removed from all positions of honor in universities, museums, and NGOs.

Last edited 8 months ago by Christopher Chantrill
Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
8 months ago

The same phenomenon has happened to much European Christian art and property over recent centuries. The New York Metropolitan Museum’s “Cloisters” location is a lovely little medieval art gallery on the Hudson River. Almost everything there is ‘looted’ if you like, from French and various other European churches.
That little museum is a treasure and many of the artifacts would probably not have not have survived otherwise.
This isn’t a moral question of colonial museums and colonized cultures – it is a question of museums basically existing to display an array of the splendors of unfamiliar (often defunct) civilizations.

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
8 months ago

The same phenomenon has happened to much European Christian art and property over recent centuries. The New York Metropolitan Museum’s “Cloisters” location is a lovely little medieval art gallery on the Hudson River. Almost everything there is ‘looted’ if you like, from French and various other European churches.
That little museum is a treasure and many of the artifacts would probably not have not have survived otherwise.
This isn’t a moral question of colonial museums and colonized cultures – it is a question of museums basically existing to display an array of the splendors of unfamiliar (often defunct) civilizations.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
8 months ago

First rate.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
8 months ago

First rate.

William Amos
William Amos
8 months ago

Having recently returned from Malaysia I was struck by the unfathomable complexity of the relationship between the ‘British’ and ‘Malays’ in the context of the Imperial involvement in that country.
Federated and unfederated states and the Crown Colonies, Residents and advisors, generals secretaries and civil servants, planters and speculators, botanists, industrialists, merchants and social reformers all hedged about by an intensely scrupulous regard to the dignity and autonomy of the Malay states on matters of religion and custom. That is without considering the 2 other large ethnic groups in that land. And beneath all these interactions lies a further layer of Biritish domestic vacillation between Liberalism. Conservatism, Romanticism and Empiricism and goodness knows what else.
A case in point perhaps is that the largest revolt against British interference in Malay affairs before the Second World War came because a young ‘idealist in a hurry’ tried to abolish slavery in the kingdom of Perak without consulting the Raja and the local chiefs. He was murdered in Perak in the 1870’s by a Malay warrior now revered as a local patriotic icon.
And all this in one of the more obscure corners of ‘Empire’. How anyone can presume to pass a meaningful judgement on it in its entirety appalls and baffles me, Like trying to take Leviathan on a fish hook.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Amos
Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
8 months ago
Reply to  William Amos

Malaya isn’t fashionable so isn’t on the Guardianista radar

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
8 months ago
Reply to  William Amos

Malaya isn’t fashionable so isn’t on the Guardianista radar

William Amos
William Amos
8 months ago

Having recently returned from Malaysia I was struck by the unfathomable complexity of the relationship between the ‘British’ and ‘Malays’ in the context of the Imperial involvement in that country.
Federated and unfederated states and the Crown Colonies, Residents and advisors, generals secretaries and civil servants, planters and speculators, botanists, industrialists, merchants and social reformers all hedged about by an intensely scrupulous regard to the dignity and autonomy of the Malay states on matters of religion and custom. That is without considering the 2 other large ethnic groups in that land. And beneath all these interactions lies a further layer of Biritish domestic vacillation between Liberalism. Conservatism, Romanticism and Empiricism and goodness knows what else.
A case in point perhaps is that the largest revolt against British interference in Malay affairs before the Second World War came because a young ‘idealist in a hurry’ tried to abolish slavery in the kingdom of Perak without consulting the Raja and the local chiefs. He was murdered in Perak in the 1870’s by a Malay warrior now revered as a local patriotic icon.
And all this in one of the more obscure corners of ‘Empire’. How anyone can presume to pass a meaningful judgement on it in its entirety appalls and baffles me, Like trying to take Leviathan on a fish hook.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Amos
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Firstly Is this a thinly veiled polemic by Mr Roussinos to achieve apotheosis and get the ELGIN marbles returned to Athens?

Secondly why has George Osborne Esq NOT resigned yet?

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

Have you visited the Acropolis Museum in Athens? It’s pretty good, to be fair, and a perfectly decent place to which to return the Elgin marbles. I think the Greeks deserve their stuff back by now.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Edward Henry Appleby
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Yes I have visited it, and it is indeed a simply splendid example of EU largesse, to a most undeserving recipient.

Until this scandal broke I firmly believed that the Elgin Marbles should remain in the British Museum (BM). However no longer!
To use an ever so PC* phrase the BM ‘is no longer fit for purpose’ and the Marbles should be returned to Athens as soon as is humanly possible.

(*Politically Correct, as we are taught to say!)

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

There are the ancient Greeks, and then there are the Greeks. It’s the former that’s deserving of our veneration. As for the Acropolis Museum, it was designed by a Swiss architect, educated in the UK and USA.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Agreed, and one must ask ‘what went so terribly wrong’?

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

The Ottoman empire? It probably dragged them back several centuries in terms of enlightened development and cut them off from Westen European advancements. Who knows? I’m a mathematician/computer scientist, not a classics scholar.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Edward Henry Appleby
jane baker
jane baker
8 months ago

The Ottoman Empire was the Evil Empire. Not having electricity and tech they used people instead and it was the insatiable need for hands and feet and other body parts to run this world,not people,work and/or sexual objects,they fuelled,to link into another controversy,the African Slave Trade which even predated the Ottomans and when Europeans found this business and sadly did not chose to eschew it,it was ALREADY in full flow and ON AN INDUSTRIAL SCALE. Its sad that us Europeans decided to go for our slice of the action but have any of these activists asked why there are thousands of black descendants of slaves in America and none in Turkey. Maybe some of you know the eye-watering answer.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
7 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Ottoman Empire fell in 1919. Nobody had much electricity the . The problem was it’s governance not lack of electricity

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
7 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Ottoman Empire fell in 1919. Nobody had much electricity the . The problem was it’s governance not lack of electricity

jane baker
jane baker
8 months ago

The Ottoman Empire was the Evil Empire. Not having electricity and tech they used people instead and it was the insatiable need for hands and feet and other body parts to run this world,not people,work and/or sexual objects,they fuelled,to link into another controversy,the African Slave Trade which even predated the Ottomans and when Europeans found this business and sadly did not chose to eschew it,it was ALREADY in full flow and ON AN INDUSTRIAL SCALE. Its sad that us Europeans decided to go for our slice of the action but have any of these activists asked why there are thousands of black descendants of slaves in America and none in Turkey. Maybe some of you know the eye-watering answer.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

The Ottoman empire? It probably dragged them back several centuries in terms of enlightened development and cut them off from Westen European advancements. Who knows? I’m a mathematician/computer scientist, not a classics scholar.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Edward Henry Appleby
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Agreed, and one must ask ‘what went so terribly wrong’?

jane baker
jane baker
8 months ago

People make such a fuss about a load of dust catching old stuff,let the Greeks have it all back.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

There are the ancient Greeks, and then there are the Greeks. It’s the former that’s deserving of our veneration. As for the Acropolis Museum, it was designed by a Swiss architect, educated in the UK and USA.

jane baker
jane baker
8 months ago

People make such a fuss about a load of dust catching old stuff,let the Greeks have it all back.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Yes I have visited it, and it is indeed a simply splendid example of EU largesse, to a most undeserving recipient.

Until this scandal broke I firmly believed that the Elgin Marbles should remain in the British Museum (BM). However no longer!
To use an ever so PC* phrase the BM ‘is no longer fit for purpose’ and the Marbles should be returned to Athens as soon as is humanly possible.

(*Politically Correct, as we are taught to say!)

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

Have you visited the Acropolis Museum in Athens? It’s pretty good, to be fair, and a perfectly decent place to which to return the Elgin marbles. I think the Greeks deserve their stuff back by now.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Edward Henry Appleby
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Firstly Is this a thinly veiled polemic by Mr Roussinos to achieve apotheosis and get the ELGIN marbles returned to Athens?

Secondly why has George Osborne Esq NOT resigned yet?

Glyn R
Glyn R
8 months ago

Progressive ideology is the demon child of over thinking neurotics.

Glyn R
Glyn R
8 months ago

Progressive ideology is the demon child of over thinking neurotics.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago

Who shrunk the heads in the first place? Shouldn’t academe’s quarrel be with them? No, wait — better to hush things up so no feelings are hurt.

Bruce V
Bruce V
8 months ago

Good author, good article, good points, good comments. In addition I think I learned 13 new adjectives and 5 new nouns.

Tony Price
Tony Price
8 months ago

Excellent article, absolute disgraceful title! This is not about museums, it is about a particular subset of museums and a particular subset of their collections. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of museums just in England which are excellent, educational, interesting, contain absolutely nothing obtained in a dodgy way and not controversial at all. And modern museum curation with audio-visual and participatory enhancements to the displays can be truly wonderful. The Age of the Museum is very much not over!

Tony Price
Tony Price
8 months ago

Excellent article, absolute disgraceful title! This is not about museums, it is about a particular subset of museums and a particular subset of their collections. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of museums just in England which are excellent, educational, interesting, contain absolutely nothing obtained in a dodgy way and not controversial at all. And modern museum curation with audio-visual and participatory enhancements to the displays can be truly wonderful. The Age of the Museum is very much not over!

Geoffrey Kolbe
Geoffrey Kolbe
8 months ago

Anthropology is supposed to an acultural occupation. Unfortunately, it seems that our culture will not longer allow this.

jane baker
jane baker
8 months ago

I visited the Pitt-Rivers Museum and I thought it was fabulous and this Mr Pitt-Rivers,he didn’t nick all this stuff.
He or his agents negotiated with the people who made it and paid fair and square. None of it is looted stuff. A couple of years ago Glasgow museum returned to the Sioux nation a “ghost shirt” that was GIVEN to them back in the 1890s. It’s ridiculous. This Sioux Indian warrior was in Cody’s Wild West Show and he had such a great time in Glasgow and met such friendly lovely people that he CHOSE to donate his special buckskin shirt to the city museum. He wanted it to be there for people to see. So it was disrespectful to him to send it back. I think it got burned and buried in a ceremony. A bit of a waste.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

This is the best article Aris has published here so far.
I still remember visiting the Pitt Rivers Museum in the 1980’s. The shrunken heads – wonderful – I’m sure I have a photo of them somewhere……but unfortunately now lost in a massive pile of 6X4 snap shots.
I wonder how long it will take until history is just history. The Romans are not judged, nor are the Vikings. The First World War is 90% – maybe 100% there.
The problem is that the people who somehow have ended up running things in Britain, paradoxically, still think of Britain in that 19th century way, of leading a moral crusade to improve the world.
The reality is that Britain is a relatively poor country, which has little global influence, and most of that is as a producer of TV costume dramas.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

I suppose Arabisation of the ‘One Book, One God, One Brain Cell’ variety will be the last hurrah of the monotheisms that have dominated the last 2000 years. You don’t know whether to hurry it along or resist it.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Quite so! That Nazarene has quite a lot to answer for, as does the somewhat later ‘camel jockey’.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Quite so! That Nazarene has quite a lot to answer for, as does the somewhat later ‘camel jockey’.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

I suppose Arabisation of the ‘One Book, One God, One Brain Cell’ variety will be the last hurrah of the monotheisms that have dominated the last 2000 years. You don’t know whether to hurry it along or resist it.

Terry Raby
Terry Raby
8 months ago

Excellent. Ordered Kuper’s book

Andrew H
Andrew H
8 months ago

A fascinating and illuminating article – thanks for this.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

There is only Darkness in the past, as we mistakenly celebrate the Demiurge and his Creation. Light comes from the Present as we reflect back the Future in Unity of World-Spirit.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

“Those who control the past control the future”.

jane baker
jane baker
8 months ago

Just to say that as a kid one of my parents had this weird idea that all brown skinned people were more kind,nicer and more honest than us white folks. This seemed quite credible as there were no brown folks anywhere near us,in fact the locality I lived in only started to get black people local as late as the 1990s and then a minority presence. But to go back to the 1960s.
TV only ever showed nice,smiley black people. Whose personal charm and acceptable behaviour made them amenable to “white” society. And of course back in Africa,Asia etc brown skinned people lived simple,modest lives of decent simplicity unlike the rapacious materialism.of us. And they were all happy in their communities and were kind to each other and shared. This was the ideal of my childhood and tv confirmed it’s truth.
(Of.course). But it’s not like that. I’ve just read a book written by a now retired doctor who worked in Sudan or Somalia that place for Save the Children as he watched Live Aid as a medical student and felt impelled to go and help those people. How shocking Live Aid was a LIFETIME ago He got on well,made friends and escaped a lot of danger through tact and charm but his book tells of shocking levels of corruption,profiteering,dishonesty,taking advantage,thieving and.exploitation rife in those “simple” societies. And it’s not because WE corrupted them,even thought we did a bit. One of the reasons their societies flourished and kept in balance before we came along was that they practiced infanticide. So not only were population levels kept right for the environmental but any baby that looked like it wouldn’t “fit” never got to live as a special needs adult. Of course this appalled to the Christian missionaries who were often first on the scene,often sponsored by commercial interests who saw them as a staging post for a future trade route. So the shape and balance of the society got put out of kilter. I’m not approving of infanticide just saying it was effective. Sad but true. When Margaret Mead wrote about the fabulous stigma free sexuality of young Samoans she either did not know or chose not to mention that babies born to girls were exposed to die. Only the baby born to the young woman when she was married to the usually older man who was predetermined for her,only that baby could live as it had a place in society but the others did not. It’s incredibly cruel but if you live on a tiny coral island in a huge ocean it makes sense.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
7 months ago

I find concepts like “racial memory” to very chilling. Identity and racial politics are in the end destructive and divisive. They cannot deliver justice.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
8 months ago

The Benin Bronzes should stay in Britain as a reminder that the finest art produced by sub-Saharan Africa in the last 2000 years is superior to what you will find in an average Italian small-town church.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steven Carr
Simon Neale
Simon Neale
8 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Typo there, surely….

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
8 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Typo there, surely….

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
8 months ago

The Benin Bronzes should stay in Britain as a reminder that the finest art produced by sub-Saharan Africa in the last 2000 years is superior to what you will find in an average Italian small-town church.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steven Carr
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

has the author ever visited the British galleries @ the British museum? these would appear to be conveniently forgotten to allow the author to make his splashy claim. we hoped for better from you, unherd.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Do you expect better tho? Not everything thrives.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Do you expect better tho? Not everything thrives.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

has the author ever visited the British galleries @ the British museum? these would appear to be conveniently forgotten to allow the author to make his splashy claim. we hoped for better from you, unherd.