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Border crossings and shifts
September 24, 2012 11:12 PM   Subscribe

Who Draws The Borders Of Culture?(NYTimes) Cultural border, as opposed to national borders, are funny things. One country can contain many (Coke vs. Soda. Vs. Pop, previously and previously-er). Cultural borders often appear as food and drink choices, like sweet tea, forms of alcohol, or BBQ sauce.

Different types of borders can run together and separate, like Protestant vs. Catholic vs. Orthodox and Romance vs. Germanic vs. Slavic, or climate and the extent of vineyards, or prevailing family structure. A region, like Brittany, can be defined in more ways than one. The place where zones meet gives rise to the edge effect in ecology, and source of conflict for humans. National borders can be odd things, slicing through people's lives.

Even national borders that no longer exist bear down on the present - in what used to be the Habsburg Empire or the colonial divisions of Africa.

Borders are not static, not even the ones on the map.
posted by the man of twists and turns (61 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
Take a look at the world's political map of the past 2000 years and you get the answer. This is an issue that can't be discussed and concluded in a day or month.

2000 years ago the people of Afghanistan used to be the firm believers of Buddhism and the very people (some of them) blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas in obedience to Mullah Omar’s edict against the existence of pre-Islamic art.

By the time we woke up....It was too late :(
posted by molisk at 12:16 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


With all the population shifts in 2000 years, I highly doubt it was the same people. Maybe some percentage of the total population carries genes from those early central Asians, but that's about it.

As for cultural borders... it's going to get harder to draw those maps with modern communication tools like the Internet connecting so many people together in ways that aren't location specific. Maybe it will make more sense to draw maps that measure change in time instead of geography, like the spread of memes among different generations.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:29 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


4D maps
posted by infini at 12:35 AM on September 25, 2012


The last sentence concludes it best, "Neither today’s Greeks nor Britons own the Parthenon marbles, really"
posted by molisk at 12:48 AM on September 25, 2012


I do. I draw the borders of culture.

I draw them mainly in meetings, when I'm bored. Little random squiggles that turn into major, seismic aesthetic and religio-political shifts eons later.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:57 AM on September 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


On a recent multi-state driving trip, the kids and I stopped for pizza in...Western NY? No, Eastern OH. Dude behind the counter saved us from a huge disappointment by noticing we weren't local and warning us away from the style they usually serve, which is a cooked, cheese-less pizza with uncooked cheese thrown on top at the last minute.

I seriously felt like I was in another country. Except what country would be dumb enough to NOT melt cheese?
posted by DU at 4:24 AM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


There are some great links in here, thank you very much for this.

Borders are such rich ground, artistically, critically, symbolically etc. The very idea of a border presages after all, two discrete things that are not borders, i.e mixed. It leaves borderlands - and those that inhabit them - in a very interesting position. They are not part of the the territories, not wholly at least, by dint of their positions - they cannot be pure.

Pursuing this metaphor with regards to the OP, I suppose that leaves all of us, in the modern world, as denizens of borderlands: the border between the past and future, cultures as they were - which we sprung from - and cultures as they are and will be. The catalog of all the other things that the Parthenon has been - yet not remembered for - illustrates this.

Living in a borderland can be an insecure business. Great OP.
posted by smoke at 4:38 AM on September 25, 2012


There is a huge scalar component to this. You can look at the super fine-grained scale (like the single pizza restaurant mentioned above," or you can pull back to the point of being able to talk about an entire country being the border between two larger areas; there's a similar temporal scale difference, too.
posted by Forktine at 4:45 AM on September 25, 2012


I live in the sad no-man's-land of the mid-Atlantic... too far north for Krystals, too far south for White Castles. I have slider insecurity.
posted by candyland at 5:15 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just recently found out about The European Green Belt, another example of old borders affecting current and future lives and environments.

The European Green Belt inititative has the vision to create the backbone of an ecological network that runs from the Barents to the Black sea, spanning some of the most important habitats for biodiversity and almost all distinct biogeographical regions in Europe.
By following a course that was in large sections part of the former east-western border - one of the most divisive barriers in history - it symbolizes the global effort for joint, cross border activities in nature conservation and sustainable development.

posted by Jakey at 5:16 AM on September 25, 2012


As an anthropologist I just have to weigh in on the static, bounded, simplistic notion of "culture" being deployed here. This is not how modern anthropologists think about that concept. It is not a "thing" with discrete boundaries the way citiizenship in a nation is a matter of binary credentialing. We all contain many cultures within us, historical and current.
posted by spitbull at 5:37 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Regardless of how the map posits the distribution of these preferences, the "prevailing family structure" one kind of blows my mind. The description of the "stem" family type,* which is apparently practiced all over the place, sounds like something really out-of-place in what I conceive of modern Western Europe. Thanks for this.

*"Several generations live under one roof, with one child marrying to continue the line. The other children remain unmarried at home, or leave to get married."
posted by psoas at 6:02 AM on September 25, 2012


In the US, marketing draws the borders. In an effort to improve the consumer's pliability, billions and billions of dollars have been sunk into identifying key characteristics that you, and a group of people like you have in common. These characteristics are then exploited with targeted advertising in select markets. (

For instance (From Axiom's Personicx Cluster Definitions) :

Gen X Parents - Cartoons & Carpools
Summary:
Married couples with children of all ages make this solidly a middle-income cluster. These homeowners are comfortably employed, establishing roots in their communities.

About: Cartoons & Carpools households are married couples with children. They lay dead center on the socio economic scale in terms of education, home values and income. This cluster has a high concentration of Hispanics and blue-collar occupations (almost twice the national average). These mid-30s households provide for their families comfortably. They drive minivans and pickups and shop regularly for their children (purchasing lots of clothes and shoes for their kids). They are extremely family-oriented and enjoy spending time with their children, visiting zoos, flying kites, going to theme parks and camping.

Cluster Size
Households: 2,201,600
% US Households 1.87%


I then get a detailed description of the services used by this cluster, the activities they participate in, as well as specific products and venues which I should advertise to them, and a map showing the concentrations as to where these people live. I then overlay and pick and choose if I can reach this market with the standard advertisement, if they are worth tailoring something to. I evaluate each group, then build a regional concentration map highlighting the markets where the characteristics I am leveraging are most prevalent. Then I target those specific markets and provide those households with a version of themselves that is better because they use our product.

Now think about this: every large company does this. Who you got your mortgage through may not seem like you aligned yourself up with someone, but in aggregate, the fact you got your mortgage through Travelers, That you drive a Chrystler Town & Country, and that you watch syndicated re-runs of the Bernie Mac Show may mean that you culturally identify with the culture that is being advertised to you.

You want a map of culture in the US? Look at a DMA map - sure there are some cultural similarities that end at state borders, but these are the areas that marketers are using to align you to their perspective products. If the product is being advertised in your area, chances are there are enough people who think like one another that they can make some money advertising that product there.

So yeah, the Coke and Pepsi Map? Yeah - that is your cultural map, that is ultimately one overlay on finding your cultural tribe in the US.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:04 AM on September 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


That "single pizza restaurant" said it was "valley style" but I don't know what valley that would be. I can look up the town we were in if anyone wants to put a pushpin in it.
posted by DU at 6:05 AM on September 25, 2012


Ohio Valley, then.
posted by tyllwin at 6:14 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure it's the Uncanny Valley.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:14 AM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Man, I just need to know what are the states that I am guaranteed a good, delicious bratwurst. Seriously, do I just go where Germans heavily settled or is it only an upper midwest thing?
posted by jadepearl at 6:18 AM on September 25, 2012


Definitely Ohio Valley pizza, and every single thing about it is wrong.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:24 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, folks, if you haven't seen the PDF that Nanukthedog linked, check it out. It's fascinating and creepy the way that marketeers divide and target us. (Full disclosure: I appear to be a "Married Sophisticate.")
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:27 AM on September 25, 2012


culture - "...voices struggling in the wilderness".
posted by incandissonance at 6:37 AM on September 25, 2012


That sweet tea line is indeed the REAL line of demarcation between North and South, no matter what anyone says.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:52 AM on September 25, 2012


except now McDonalds has Sweet tea everywhere.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:01 AM on September 25, 2012


Still, the line in the linked graph is pretty damn perfect for actual cultural north-south demarcation.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:02 AM on September 25, 2012


The thing that stuck out to me the first time I was in a restaurant in the south was grits. I lived a whole life in California and never saw a grit. Then about five years later I heard an expression "living on grits". They are cheap nutrition. Living on rice and beans would be the equivalent where they do not routinely consume grits. I suppose grits and sweet tea could be an acquired taste.
posted by bukvich at 7:09 AM on September 25, 2012


The Times article on the Elgin Marbles doesn't persuade me. There seems to be two main arguments: 1) keeping treasures far from their origins allows them to be discovered, enjoyed and cared for properly 2) patrimony claims arise from opportunistic motives like profiteering, nationalism, and political theatre and thus are suspect. The article both claims a right to British patrimony over the Elgin Marbles and also undermines patrimony claims altogether.
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:13 AM on September 25, 2012


Man, I just need to know what are the states that I am guaranteed a good, delicious bratwurst. Seriously, do I just go where Germans heavily settled or is it only an upper midwest thing?

You may have to check what area the German immigrants were from originally, because even within Germany there's a cultural border like this where "white sausage" country begins.
posted by LionIndex at 7:57 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


except now McDonalds has Sweet tea everywhere.

And like U.S. embassies are American soil, I like to think of McDonald's as little pimples of the South spinkling their sweet tea and happy meal acne all across the globe.

see also: chick-fil-a
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:57 AM on September 25, 2012


(I do realize McD's is based in Chicago, but I still like it as an explanation of Sweet Tea still being from "The South" everywhere it is served)

The Strange Maps blog is fascinating by the way. I'm adding the RSS feed to my Google Reader subscriptions, which is a list I'm maniacal about keeping small.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:59 AM on September 25, 2012



And like U.S. embassies are American soil, I like to think of McDonald's as little pimples of the South spinkling their sweet tea and happy meal acne all across the globe.

see also: chick-fil-a


You're right about Chick Fil-A, but there's nothing "Southern" about McDonald's other than ripping of Chick Fil-A's sandwich and realizing that people everywhere like drinks that are sweet. It's generic American fast-food and has no connection to Southern culinary culture.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:01 AM on September 25, 2012


Bulgaroktonos on McDonald's:
It's generic American fast-food and has no connection to Southern culinary culture.

I think you just summed up the argument as to why McDonald's is quickly becoming the greatest symbol of modern southern cuisine: fast food, fast dining, strip malls, Wal-Mart and the erosion of traditional Southern Heritage foods being passed down by generations picking up their credit cards instead of their cookbooks.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:08 AM on September 25, 2012


I think you just summed up the argument as to why McDonald's is quickly becoming the greatest symbol of modern southern cuisine: fast food, fast dining, strip malls, Wal-Mart and the erosion of traditional Southern Heritage foods being passed down by generations picking up their credit cards instead of their cookbooks.

That's just an argument for it being American, though, there's nothing especially Southern about strip malls and people replacing heritage food with fast food; that's as true in Boston as it is in Atlanta.

There are Southern fast food chains (Chick Fil-A, Bojangles), but McDonald's isn't one.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:24 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Asking about the report linked by nanukthedog, did the report's writers compute LQs (location quotients, comparing the local (or in this case demographic) share of consumption or production of X with the national average) for age/income groups for retailers, magazines, etc.? I am trying to understand how their data was computed and what is making their data sets. Seriously, Arthritis Today is going to be more read amongst the 80+ crowd than the 20 year old crowd. I am a bit distrusting of the descriptives.

Sorry for the derail, now to research this: within Germany there's a cultural border like this where "white sausage" country begins.
posted by jadepearl at 8:26 AM on September 25, 2012


My husband doesn't understand ranch dressing with pizza, nor can he get his head around mixing mayo and ketchup for dipping your fries.

Whereas I'm confused by long skinny sticks of butter.
posted by padraigin at 8:27 AM on September 25, 2012


At least in the case of the "Elgin Marbles", they're part of a building and so should be as near to that as they can be. The argument might be different for other artifacts, but these aren't standalone carvings. The British Museum has effectively never shown them properly, simply because they lack the context to do so. Until they're back in Greece, the world has been robbed of this wonderful work of art.
posted by Jehan at 8:28 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer: "Definitely Ohio Valley pizza, and every single thing about it is wrong."

Jesus Christ, Ohio. How are you a political powerhouse when you eat garbage like this?
posted by boo_radley at 8:43 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The life stage segmentation system (the thing marketers use to separate “Apple Pie Familes” “Soccer & SUVs” familes ) PDF that Nanukthedog linked is from 2002 (it already seems very dated). Here’s the 2010 version.
posted by SeanOfTheHillPeople at 8:45 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


within Germany there's a cultural border like this where "white sausage" country begins.

Germany's Equators
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:57 AM on September 25, 2012


Here’s the 2010 version.

Oh, yay, I love being described as a "savvy single."
posted by psoas at 9:05 AM on September 25, 2012


Here’s the 2010 version.

That thing is pretty awesome. But why does everyone's day end with falling asleep to watching Scrubs?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:41 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, Ohio. How are you a political powerhouse when you eat garbage like [Ohio Valley Pizza]?

If some local were to serve up slices of that slop during a campaign stop, I actually wouldn't blame Romney if he disparaged it right in front of their stupid face.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:03 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least in the case of the "Elgin Marbles", they're part of a building and so should be as near to that as they can be. The argument might be different for other artifacts, but these aren't standalone carvings. The British Museum has effectively never shown them properly, simply because they lack the context to do so. Until they're back in Greece, the world has been robbed of this wonderful work of art.
Jehan

The NYT article actually addresses this point:

The Greek proposal that Britain fork over Elgin’s treasures has never involved actually putting the sculptures back onto the Parthenon, which started crumbling long before he showed up. The marbles would go from one museum into another, albeit one much closer.

The Greeks don't intend to put them back into the temple, they are going to show them in a museum as the British are doing now. This touches on the first sentence: why should they be "as near to that as they can be" if they aren't going to actually be situated where they were originally from? If the issue is context, just being near the Parthenon doesn't change anything. A museum in Britain can show their context just as well as a museum in Athens. Perhaps the British are currently doing a poor job of it, but proximity alone doesn't address your concerns.

The Times article on the Elgin Marbles doesn't persuade me. There seems to be two main arguments: 1) keeping treasures far from their origins allows them to be discovered, enjoyed and cared for properly 2) patrimony claims arise from opportunistic motives like profiteering, nationalism, and political theatre and thus are suspect. The article both claims a right to British patrimony over the Elgin Marbles and also undermines patrimony claims altogether.
acheekymonkey

The article doesn't claim British patrimony over the marbles. It argues more for continuing British stewardship of them because the Greek patrimony claims are hollow for the reasons given. If the current Greeks have no real claim to them and no good will really be done moving them, why move them?
posted by Sangermaine at 10:10 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Rosetta Stone is actually kind of an apt metaphor for the British Museum itself -- it's definitely an element of British culture that they decided over the past 200 years(ish)that they were the appropriate stewards and curators of the world's culture. All of it. Seeing the stuff they ended up with -- rather you regard it as looting or protecting -- is itself a lesson in history.

That's one of the reasons that I'd hate to see all the Egyptian stuff from the Vatican museum returned. At first, you're all, "What does this have to do with Catholics?" Then you realize, "Holy crap, this church had so much money and power."

The collection is important context; it's not only about individual objects.
posted by purpleclover at 10:17 AM on September 25, 2012


Mapping out the Red Sox-Yankees border.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:24 AM on September 25, 2012


I do realize McD's is based in Chicago

Really, it's from California (San Bernardino)^, and is closely connected to California car culture. Sweet tea wasn't even available at non-Southern McDonald's until just a few years ago, when it was already a sort of fad. If anything, this represents a co-opting of Southern culture by the mainstream, rather than some sort of organic spread.
posted by dhartung at 11:13 AM on September 25, 2012


Long sticks of butter vs. short sticks of butter!

I have a Fiestaware butter dish (made in West Virginia) but I live in Oregon where most of our butter of the short and stubby variety. Every so often I splurge and get the long sticks (always some premium brand) so I can actually use my butter dish when company comes over.
posted by vespabelle at 11:24 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Greeks don't intend to put them back into the temple, they are going to show them in a museum as the British are doing now. This touches on the first sentence: why should they be "as near to that as they can be" if they aren't going to actually be situated where they were originally from? If the issue is context, just being near the Parthenon doesn't change anything. A museum in Britain can show their context just as well as a museum in Athens. Perhaps the British are currently doing a poor job of it, but proximity alone doesn't address your concerns.
When the carvings are taken back to Athens, it will let the Parthenon be seen in one place and at one time. You will then be able to tour the Acropolis in the morning, taking in the shape of the Parthenon, nearby buildings and surviving carvings, and then view the other carvings in the afternoon. The British Museum simply cannot give that level of context. At the moment somebody wishing to learn about those building must travel to two faraway places over a longer period of time. The carvings are not standalone works of art, they are part of a building and thus a landscape. To put them back into that landscape--even if not back onto the building itself--immeasurably improves our understanding of them. The British Museum is working against the understanding of those carvings by keeping them.

I understand that the museum even has a full-length window looking out onto the Acropolis. When the carvings are displayed there, you will be able to see both the Parthenon and the carvings at once, the nearest thing to putting them back.
posted by Jehan at 12:18 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I understand that the museum even has a full-length window looking out onto the Acropolis. When the carvings are displayed there, you will be able to see both the Parthenon and the carvings at once, the nearest thing to putting them back.
Jehan

But this could just as easily be done in the British Museum with a screen displaying an image or an interactive display or something like that. They could situate the marbles in a replica facade of the Parthenon. There is nothing you could do in the Athens Museum that couldn't be done in the British Museum; it's just a failure of presentation. If it's going to sit in a museum, it really doesn't matter what museum it sits in. The ability to make guests understand context or not is a failing of the presentation of the museum.

I take your point about the ability to walk in the Acropolis and then later see the statues, but why create this odd separation at all? The author of the NYT piece is right: the fact that they aren't trying to put them back into their original context but just want it in their museum shows this is more about nationalism than it is about the pieces.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:06 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


We ought not let best be the enemy of better. And distance is the key thing here. The Parthenon is a building, and though we can't now experience it as "one", we should seek to lessen the gap between its halves. If there is otherwise no difference between a museum in London and one in Athens, then why not Athens? Nobody can ever go to London and experience the Parthenon, as the bulk of the building is not there, and never can be. Yet it could be, one day, that somebody going to Athens experiences the Parthenon as near as we can ever now get. Our understanding of the Parthenon certainly can't be worsened by taking them back.

I should say that I don't believe this argument counts for all artifacts, as many neither have surviving contexts, nor even fixed contexts. But I feel that as a building which still fairly survives, the Parthenon has a reasonable argument behind it.
posted by Jehan at 1:42 PM on September 25, 2012


When the carvings are taken back to Athens, it will let the Parthenon be seen in one place and at one time.

I dunno, I really feel like the article addresses that; namely that it is impossible to effectively "see" the Parthenon as it's always being viewed through a particular cultural/historical lens. I feel like a lot of your arguments are addressed at some kind of (current) Platonic ideal of the Parthenon.

It's a very interesting discussion that goes far beyond the marbles, really. Here in Australia we have these discussions with many Aboriginal artefacts (and even bodies!) that were taken into museums or other institutions back in the day. From there, it's a very short leap to native title issues. If contemporary Aboriginals have as much connection to land as your average joe, who owns it? In Australia, at least, this was addressed by the requirement that a continual connection to the land was demonstrated. Nonetheless, it's a great illustration of how quickly this issues can balloon into something that encompasses but goes well beyond cultural identities.
posted by smoke at 3:44 PM on September 25, 2012


Sangermaine: I take your point about the ability to walk in the Acropolis and then later see the statues, but why create this odd separation at all? The author of the NYT piece is right: the fact that they aren't trying to put them back into their original context but just want it in their museum shows this is more about nationalism than it is about the pieces"

I believe that the Elgin marbles are fairly delicate. In order to display them on the building, it would be necessary to then enclose, or at least roof over, sections of the Parthenon itself, which would seem to me to be undesirable. The Greek plan would appear to be the best practicable alternative.
I think to a certain extent it is a nationalist issue, but just because something becomes a bit of a political football doesn't mean that there is no underlying validity of the idea.
posted by Jakey at 4:15 PM on September 25, 2012


The 'Forms of Alcohol' map is wrong about Bosnia-Hecegovina being in the Beer Belt. They produce a number of nice wines, also a hard liquor called rakija, which is distilled from plums, grapes, pears, and even mead. (honey). There is also boza, a low alcohol drink of Turkish origin.
Beer was brought in by the Austrians. The Sarajevsko Brewary does produce very good beer, and certainly Bosnians drink beer, but rakija, and wine are used more.
Rakija is used medicinally as well as for drinking socially. Medovača
Which is a mead brandy is awesome! It doesn't give you a hangover, and it will knock out a cough. I muss that suff.
The concept of an alcohol of choice certainly breaks down in BiH. Same goes for Croatia. The Croats drink wine more than beer. They have unique forms of rakija. Again, it's possible to get very good beer, but beer is not a strong preference.
In most of the Balkans you see a lot of variety in alcoholic beverages.
Boza isn't even mentioned on the map, and it is drunk in quite a few places, Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Crimea, as well as by Polish and Russian Tatars.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:46 PM on September 25, 2012


Es macht nichts but I just found out today that a brand of soda pop on sale in the midwest since 1907, Faygo, was never available where I grew up. (I was temporarily curious, but decided I could live with that.)

Another, perhaps less irrelevant reflection is that, while corporations spend billions trying to erase culture and replace it with product identification, we are still free to resist that erasure. For now.
posted by Twang at 7:07 PM on September 25, 2012


But this could just as easily be done in the British Museum with a screen displaying an image or an interactive display or something like that. They could situate the marbles in a replica facade of the Parthenon. There is nothing you could do in the Athens Museum that couldn't be done in the British Museum; it's just a failure of presentation. If it's going to sit in a museum, it really doesn't matter what museum it sits in. The ability to make guests understand context or not is a failing of the presentation of the museum.

Why travel at all! Let just convince all those bloody tourists to go and see the Eiffel tower in Las Vegas instead! We can even install a tv at the top and show a film of the view you'd get in the real one!
posted by palbo at 8:29 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, Ohio. How are you a political powerhouse when you eat garbage like this?

It's like the pizza is a result of an ugly negotiation between someone who hates the concept of cooking things, and someone who just wants to, dear god, make a damn pizza.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:51 PM on September 25, 2012


Interesting how Britain is willing to get all hippy dippy "who does culture really belong to, anyway, man?" when it comes to a disputed cultural artifact they currently possess. I bet if half of Stonehenge were in Dubai, Britain would be arguing it the opposite way.

The Times article also has that annoying habit of all Times pieces in just asserting that some matter of opinion is so without anything much to back it up. The British deserve the Elgin Marbles more, because what does anything even mean, anyway? Also, finders keepers losers weepers, and the Ottomans.

Then again, this article does serve to remind me, yet again, of one of my all time favorite weird quirks of history: the fact that the Ottoman Empire is referred to as The Sublime Porte for diplomatic purposes. Sort of like the Holy See, but better.
posted by Sara C. at 10:38 PM on September 25, 2012


Is sweet tea just iced tea with tons of sugar? Because for the longest time that's all you could get in a restaurant, or pre-made in a can/bottle, in Canada. Only recently have some US fast food chains like Smashburger come in and offered unsweetened iced tea.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:25 PM on September 26, 2012


To be fair, if half of Stonehenge were in Athens, the Greeks would probably change their tune, too.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:30 PM on September 26, 2012


Sure, but then it would be their turn to be wrong.

I see nothing unusual about the idea that an artifact should belong to the place it was made. Especially if the people living there have the ability to care for the artifact and display it to the public.

Can you name a situation where this wouldn't be the right thing to do, aside from something like repatriating Mesopotamian artifacts into a war zone?
posted by Sara C. at 2:56 PM on September 26, 2012


Is sweet tea just iced tea with tons of sugar?

Yes. In the U.S. we were generally able to keep it confined to the historical South (I grew up in California and never encountered it until I moved to South Carolina at 22) but now it's taking over everywhere, which is a shame because (a) some of us don't have a big sweet tooth and (b) shit-tons of sugar is why the Diabetes Belt is actually a thing.
posted by psoas at 7:53 AM on September 27, 2012


Pruitt-Igoe: "Is sweet tea just iced tea with tons of sugar?"

sometimes. other times people will make super-saturated syrup or use sweet'n'low (since it dissolves better) to make it even sweeter.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:09 AM on September 27, 2012


Sure, but then it would be their turn to be wrong.

I see nothing unusual about the idea that an artifact should belong to the place it was made. Especially if the people living there have the ability to care for the artifact and display it to the public.

Can you name a situation where this wouldn't be the right thing to do, aside from something like repatriating Mesopotamian artifacts into a war zone?


My point was that the fact that Britain would argue a different position in a different situation doesn't prove anything. Neither country is arguing from a place of genuine principle, they're just arguing for what would benefit them in this situation.

I also think this issue is impossibly tricky for a variety of reasons. Firstly because the number of artifacts in museums far from their home culture is astronomical, and that's a good thing because it exposes more people to cultures other than their own. The taking of most of those items isn't being challenged, but drawing a blanket rule that "artifacts go where they were made" would question the legitimacy of putting any Greek sculpture in any museum outside Greece, despite the fact that Greece probably doesn't want to see it all returned.

Further, "where it was made" is a bad substitute for culture, which is, I think, what we're actually talking about. The Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens is full of Byzantine artifacts made in places other than within the borders modern Greece, but that makes sense because there's cultural continuity between the two groups. Similarly, there is (far more attenuated) cultural connection between the British and ancient Greece; the modern West's conception of itself is grounded in part in the idea that it shares cultural continuity with ancient Greece and Rome. I understand wanting to put the Marbles back in a Greece, because that's the culture they have the most direct connection to, but that's not the only culture that sees Ancient Greece as its forebear.

Finally, cultural artifacts are not only created by making, they are created by stealing and repurposing. For example, in Istanbul, in the Hippodrome, there is an Egyptian obelisk that was stolen by Theodosius and placed there. The obelisk itself is Egyptian and you could easily argue that it should be returned to Egypt (to my knowledge no one has ever done so), except that the Obelisk as an object in the Byzantine context of the Hippodrome is a cultural thing that has existed for 1700 years. When you see it in that context you are seeing it in an historical context that is just as legitimate as seeing it in Egypt. Similarly, the British Empire is a culture. Among the things that culture "created" was the British Museum. In fact, I'd argue that the British Museum is one of the quintessential creations of the British Empire. Part of the cultural artifact that is the British Museum is the fact that it contains borrowed or stolen objects from around the world. Without having those objects there you've effectively destroyed the historical artifact that is the British Museum. Similarly, observing the Elgin Marbles in the context of the Parthenon is the "right" context for a student of Ancient Greek history, but observing them in the context of the British Museum is the "right" context for a student of British history. Either choice prioritizes an historically legitimate context over another. There are legitimate reasons for choosing to prioritize the Greek context, but I don't think it's obvious either way.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:32 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


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