Apr 8, 2010

On Polite Discourse

Yesterday I posted a link and an abstract of a recent student article, Cultural Pragmatism:  A New Approach to the International Movement of Antiquities, 95 Iowa L. Rev 667 (2010).  I see that the paper has drawn the interest of David Gill, who has offered a response to some of Hoffman's arguments as he indicated below in the comments.  I'd like to temper some of the aggressive criticism of the paper (and Matthew, I can't find your email address on the Iowa website, so drop me a line if you would).

When I promote these pieces, I am promoting the field of study, and letting you all know something new has been written. This is a student paper, and though we might be critical of some of his assertions, we should also be respectful.  At least that is how I approach the work of others—particularly student writers.

Hoffman certainly makes some mistakes, and one of the common mistakes legal writers fall into is they can often write elegantly, but fail to conduct enough background research into an area before jumping in.  This piece might be a good example of that in parts, but I think the student here is also extending a line of argument espoused by writers like John Merryman, and now Jim Cuno that some will find distasteful.  I didn't get to comment on a draft of the piece, I've never met the student, nor read his paper before yesterday.  If I had I probably would have advised him to make a few changes.

I appreciate this can be an emotive issue, but when you beat up on a student writer, and fail to extend professionalism to a newcomer to the field, you not only diminish your own arguments, but the field as well.

I think he is on to an interesting argument when he argues for a tiered approach, in the same way Japan treats objects removed from Japan.  Japan would seem to lack sufficient regulation on the market end, as Gill points out with respect to the Miho museum.  Yet how do these returns actually affect the protection of sites, that is the question I think Hoffman could have addressed, and perhaps others will take up the argument and correct any errors or admissions they see in his piece—that's what scholarship is right?

For those of you who may not know, the Iowa Law Review is a well-respected legal journal, and an article dealing with this issue offers at the very least an opportunity to raise the profile of this issue.  A common practice in American legal publications is to publish a few student articles in each issue.  These are commonly referred to as "notes" or "comments", as I indicated in the original title below.  I'm happy to post cites and links to anybody's serious writing on the topic, irrespective of viewpoint.  I'll also continue to treat these writers with respect even when I disagree with their assertions.  I would hope others could do the same.
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