Introduction

Owning culture

in Focaal

'Culture' has become a powerful political symbol and economic resource in the information age, where the development of the service economy (including tourism) provides new opportunities to marginal groups and new challenges to dominant ones. In this introduction the authors explore a number of themes that are developed further in the following articles: the way in which 'culture' is produced, possessed and often transformed into a commodity for the market; the role of such reified culture in relations of power and inequality; the ownership of culture as a tool of identity and nation building. While to date such an interest has been largely limited to indigenous populations, here the discussion is taken a step further by focusing on the relevancy of owning culture in the Eurasian context. This allows us to expand our understanding of cultural property: as a tool available to any group seeking confirmation of an identity perceived to be under threat or as an instrument in the negotiation of a group's position vis-à-vis wider power structures.

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Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology