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‘Under the hammer’: the role of auction houses and dealers in the distribution of Indigenous ancestral remains

Aranui, A, Fforde, C, Pickering, M, Turnbull, P ORCID: 0000-0002-7101-1538, Knapman, G and Keeler, H 2020 , '‘Under the hammer’: the role of auction houses and dealers in the distribution of Indigenous ancestral remains', in Fforde Cressida and McKeown C. Timothy and Keeler Honor (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Indigenous Repatriation: Return, Reconcile, Renew , Taylor & Francis, United Kingdom, p. 982.

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Abstract

The removal of Indigenous human remains and their provision to overseas collectors occurredfrom the late 18th century to the present. An opportunity for commercial profit saw thembecome sale items purchased by an array of museums and private collectors across the world.While Knapman and Fforde (Chapter 18, this volume) provide an overview of the means bywhich Australian Ancestral Remains were commodified in this manner, this chapter considers inmore detail the role of dealers and auction houses in the acquisition and dispersal of Indigenoushuman remains to domestic and overseas collections. It does so because of the lack of attentiongenerally paid to this commercial mechanism in the repatriation literature and because dealerscontinue to trade in Indigenous human remains today.The first section of this chapter describes and examines the past activity of major dealersand auction houses in New Zealand, Australia, the United States of America and the UnitedKingdom. The second section provides an overview of the continuing role of such businesses(engaging in both ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ sales platforms) in the sale of Indigenous human remainsand cultural objects today. Dealers continue to trade in Indigenous human remains, revealingnot only the limitations of legislation but also that there may still be a substantial market thatpresents significant challenges to repatriation today. Furthermore, the community that currently collects Indigenous human remains is insufficiently understood and may prove difficultto examine due to the confidentiality under which transactions take place and the illegality, inmany countries, of the sale itself.

Item Type: Book Section
Authors/Creators:Aranui, A and Fforde, C and Pickering, M and Turnbull, P and Knapman, G and Keeler, H
Keywords: Indigenous Human Remains, Anthropology
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
DOI / ID Number: 10.4324/9780203730966
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2020 The Authors

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