Archive for December, 2013


Sotheby’s blood antiquities from Cambodia

In Cambodia (as elsewhere), looting and smuggling are associated with poverty and corruption. Academic collusion is key to the ostensibly legal antiquities market. (Dr. Emma Bunker, who confirmed that Sotheby’s statue was ‘definitely stolen’, nonetheless advised them to sell the statue privately, or to sell the statue publicly without mentioning the scene of the crime, but either way to ignore legal advice.) And it is an illicit trade steeped in blood.

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I won’t publish work that I can’t read

Following on from last year’s refusal to advertise unread books for payment-in-kind, now I’m going to refuse to publish work that I can’t read. (Maybe this will become a disappointing annual series!)

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Ukraine: Svoboda ultranationalists have toppled Lenin statue

Chanting ‘hang the Commie!’, they tore down the statue of Lenin and raised the flag of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

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earthmovers’ revolution: Ukraine

I still remember a Ukrainian journalist friend telling me (and others in our circle) that the 2004-2005 Orange leaders were not trusted and the revolution was not expected to be a success in and of itself. The real democracy movement hoped to create just enough breathing space, just long enough, to be able to prepare itself for the next push (which would involve protecting the people from the rulers they had supported).

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earthmovers’ revolution: Turkey

Just as Serbia’s Excavator Joe is ‘always in the opposition‘, so Turkey’s radically-democratic Beşiktaş football fan club Çarşı is ‘against everything’, even itself. Like Joe became acclimatised to clouds of tear gas, pepper gas became ‘the Besiktas fan’s perfume‘ (long before the revolution). And unconsciously echoing Joe’s Bulldozer Revolution, Çarşı too used a mechanical excavator in battle with the state.

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earthmovers’ revolution: Serbia

Beyond the destruction of civilian property in crises and conflicts, I’m interested in the archaeology of struggle in general – how authorities control, how people resist, how resistance evolves, what evidence survives, what institutions and individuals remember… (Maybe it just gives me an excuse to shoot ruin porn and talk about revolution.)

Since British cultural heritage activists are pessimistic about the potential for positive social change, and since Ukraine has just joined Serbia and Turkey in being a bulldozer revolution, I thought I would look at the role of earthmovers in these social movements.

I’m not (yet) suggesting that we should use earthmovers, but they should remind us of the potential for resistance and change in much worse circumstances.

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