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China and the Global Politics of Cultural Heritage

Magnus Fiskesjo examines China's request for US restrictions on illicit trading of antiquities smuggled from China.

October 2, 2007 12:00pm to 1:30pm

In this presentation, Professor Fiskesjö takes as a starting point China's government pending request to the US for restrictions on the trade in illicit antiquities smuggled from China, and the bitter debates in the US over whether to accept this Chinese demand or continue trading in stolen collectibles. He will then situate this ongoing controversy in the context of broader global developments, and the ambivalence of the contemporary Chinese embrace of global cultural heritage concepts, which occurs against the background of an ongoing looting disaster--as in many other parts of the global South. His goal is to re-evaluate the global tensions of China's cultural heritage policies as a clash of values which mirrors the broader contradictions arising from China's transformation into a prominent part of the global North.

Magnus Fiskesjö was educated in Sweden, in China, and at the University of Chicago, where he received a joint Ph.D. degree in Anthropology and East Asian Languages and Civilizations in 2000, based on fieldwork on indigenous conceptions of history in China's Southeast Asia borderlands. Previously, he served in Sweden's foreign service, posted in Beijing as cultural attaché, and in Tokyo. He has participated in archaeological field research in Thailand and Japan, and in 2000-2005 was Director of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, in Stockholm, Sweden, one of the key Asia museums in Europe with famous collections from ancient China. Since 2005, he has been teaching at Cornell University, on subjects that include Chinese and Asian anthropology and history, museums and the global antiquities trade, and on other related topics, such as contemporary human trafficking.