Culture and property have increasingly fused into one concept as the circulation of practices and objects that ethnologists have defined as cultural is brought within the purview of markets and state regulative systems. Ethnological analyses of the cultural distinctiveness of regions and nations and the foregrounding of folklore as an index of local genius helped foster a patrimonial regime in the 20th and 21st centuries, that converts artifacts and expressions to cultural property and heritage. While sometimes used synonymously, cultural property and cultural heritage have distinct connotations and are associated with separate legal regimes and different manners of staking claims to culture. At once legal and ethical, economic and emotional, scientific and sensory, the patrimonial regime is in rapid expansion both across and within global societies. The articles in this issue of Ethnologia Europaea explore this regime from various vantage points with theoretical sophistication and richness of detail, analyzing invocations of cultural heritage and cultural property in localized settings and on international stages, combining ethnographic research and document analysis in case studies from around the European continent – Italy, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Estonia – and beyond.
Regina Bendix and Valdimar Tr. Hafstein
Stein R. Mathiesen