The Notion of “Cultural Heritage” in the International Field: Behind Origin and Evolution of a Concept

Abstract

The introduction of the concept of ‘cultural heritage’ is a relatively recent achievement of international law. Over the years, the enthusiasm for the protection of cultural property has enriched the term of new shades of meaning, while maintaining the older ones. At the same time, ‘cultural heritage’ is only one of the terms used in international treaties and other normative instruments. Hence, its comprehension needs to pass through a comparison of the other legal terminologies adopted. In such a context, the paper aims at providing a broad understanding of the idea of ‘cultural heritage’ by investigating its origin and evolution in the legal framework. In order to do so, the analysis begins with a brief discussion of the notion of ‘culture’ by analyzing how it has come to convey the current meanings. The paper then describes the main aspects influencing the linguistic choice within the field of Cultural Heritage Law. The central part of the paper deals with the different terminologies used to refer to cultural property within the international legal instruments (among them, 1954 Hague Convention, 1970 UNESCO Convention, and 1972 World Heritage Convention). Finally, the paper explores the existence of constructions of belongings in the legal terminologies examining the impact of territorial or communitarian linkage in the cultural legal discourse. The aim of this work is to reveal the inner system of interconnections in an effort to shed light on the multiple meanings of the term ‘cultural heritage’ by exploring how the concept evolved within the socio-legal context over time and space.

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Notes

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    “No brilliant young man on seeing the Jupiter in Pisa or the Hera in Argos has ever desired to be Phidias or Polycletus nor [has ever desired to be] Anacreon o Philetas or Archilochus for having enjoyed their poems. Indeed, appreciating a work as gracefulness does not implies any equal esteem for its creator” [Author’s translation].

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Ferrazzi, S. The Notion of “Cultural Heritage” in the International Field: Behind Origin and Evolution of a Concept. Int J Semiot Law (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11196-020-09739-0

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Keywords

  • Cultural heritage law
  • International law
  • Cultural heritage
  • Cultural property
  • National treasure
  • UNESCO