From ethics to politics

The previous section tried to show how culture heritage professionals – regardless of their own motives for undertaking certain actions (or refraining from taking action) – may serve to legitimise the trade. In the cases presented, culture heritage professionals had acted in ways which, more or less clearly, contravened established codes for professional conduct. However, it is important to acknowledge that culture heritage professionals contribute to creating notions of the past and its material remains in ways which play into the hands of the market in a much more indirect manner, without necessarily breaking any codes of ethics. Hamilakis (2007) has noted that there is reason to discuss not only ethics (limited to professional responsibility in a strict sense) put also politics, that is, the larger contemporary societal impact of “the past” created by cultural heritage professionals. Following this line of thought this section will examine how the construction of “art” and “heritage” is linked to, and serves to naturalise, the illicit trade but also contributes to the reproduction of inequality as such.