Repatriation both ways: a theoretical approach to the repatriation policies of Turkey through case studies

Date
2023-05
Advisor
Tezgör, Dominique Kassab
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Bilkent University
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Language
English
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Thesis
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Abstract

Countries with cultural properties have always been subject to illicit trafficking and export of these items. Once a cultural property is deprived of its source country, it is also deprived of its context, roots in that land, and the culture to which it belongs. The concept of repatriation is a powerful tool in the competent hands of source countries that can be used to reattach this broken link. Even though repatriation is consulted mainly through source countries, market countries can still use this method. Any country seeking restitution for its stolen or illicitly exported cultural property is naturally working to repatriate their cultural heritage. In this sense, there is no strict definition or boundary of how repatriation should be done or what can be seen as repatriation. Any efforts dissipated to bring back the stolen or illicitly exported cultural property of a country can be seen under the umbrella of repatriation. The methodology that is followed in this thesis is first to introduce the main terminology like illicit trafficking of cultural property and repatriation. This definitive introduction also examines the leading institutions and agencies within this field. After laying out these main concepts, it introduces the relevant national and international legislation. The international legislation listed in Chapter 2 is not exhaustive but serves as an initial toolkit to confer. For this thesis, only the most relevant legislations are chosen. For the national legislation, only one law is consulted in detail. In Chapter 3, this thesis starts discussing the theories behind the illicit trafficking of cultural property and repatriation. Being able to discuss case studies about repatriation requires an initial knowledge of the theories behind these concepts. This chapter is also where a literature review on these concepts is done. The literature review comprises both national and international publications within the field. After laying out the prominent publications on the above-mentioned matters, Chapter 4 introduces the selected case studies to the reader. This chapter's framing is designed to see and analyze the repatriation efforts and policies of Turkey in action. Along with the initial benefit of introducing us to the repatriation policies of Turkey, all of these are being published in an academic study in this context for the first time. There are newspaper articles both nationally and internationally for some of the cases. Even though these cannot be seen as academic publications but rather as secondary sources from which I have also benefitted from time to time, in addition to my main source of information, which the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism provided. Learning about the history of events within each case is significant. Still, we cannot speak about success if we do not see them in contrast to each other and discuss how the reactions and policies of Turkey differed from case to case. In Chapter 5, the selected case studies are evaluated internally and externally, contrasting each other. With this comparison, it is realized that no single method can be applied in the repatriation of cultural property, but rather it shifts according to the case at hand. Even though there are definitive measures, the extent and time of their application vary according to the case. It is further of grave value to realize both the similarities and differences in trying to finalize the repatriation efforts in the sense that it allows the nation-states to build up a database of case studies they can consult in future cases. It is concluded by making projections regarding the future of the field of repatriation and what possible solutions might be developed for these future conflicts.

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Keywords
Repatriation, Cultural property, Illicit trafficking, Antiquities
Citation
Published Version (Please cite this version)