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Repatriation and the Reconstruction of Identity

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Publication Date: October 2009

Publisher(s): American Anthropological Association; American Anthropological Association

Author(s): Jordan Jacobs

Topic: Culture and religion (Cultural heritage and preservation)
Law and ethics (Intellectual property, copyright, patent, and trademark law)

Keywords: NAGPRA; Cuba; repatriation; kinship

Type: Report

Coverage: United States Cuba


A proposed change to American repatriation law provides an opportunity to reexamine the assumptions on which the original statute was built. For their justification, NAGPRA and the NMAI Act rely on the supposition that bounded communities proceed through time along a unilinear path--a misconception stemming from both universal, identity-forming processes and the discipline of archaeology itself.

A case study involving the National Museum of the American Indian' s 2003 repatriation of human remains to a rural village in Cuba demonstrates how various identities can manipulate the transfer of archaeological material to fit their own symbolic needs.

In Museum Anthropology, 32:2, 2009.