The ownership of time : culture, property and social theory
The main argument of this thesis is that the future-oriented vision that characterizes modernity has, in recent years, become inverted into an obsession with the past, an obsession that is played out using the discourses of "ownership". The argument is developed by drawing a parallel between the question of time and place as it has been addressed in social theoretical discourses and (increasing) public concerns with owning the past - a past that is accessed and (more importantly) appropriated by means of claims to the ownership of ancient objects. The argument looks at two specific cases in which ownership of objects is translated into claims for ownership of the past: the Parthenon Marbles case and the Kennewick Man case. First, the argument engages in legal analysis of the property claims set out in these cases. Second, it analyses these legal claims by reference to the theories of Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, and Frantz Fanon (among others) in order to question the meaning of these legal conflicts. What light do current social-theoretical discussions shed on the proliferation of cultural property and cultural heritage. Arguably, claims that turn on ownership of these sorts of objects themselves express a deep discomfort with the present understanding of modern society's location in time. The thesis concludes by suggesting that this obsession with the past is a reaction to the modernist obsession with the future, and that the lack of "place" that is so characteristic of modernity is also experienced as a lack of "time" for human flourishing. The proliferation of cultural property and cultural heritage cases and issues in law, and the increasing number of new museums, can be traced to these interconnecting absences, which discourses of ownership attempt to overcome.