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Conversations on Europe. Loot: Tomb Robbing, Art Restitution, and Italian Cultural Power in the 21st Century

Fiona Greenland, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia
Monday, September 19, 2022
4:00-5:30 PM
Room 555 Weiser Hall Map
Through much of its history, Italy was a major source of artworks and antiquities for élite collectors who bought, sold, and plundered for profit and prestige. Today, the national government operates a specialized art police unit to combat looting and smuggling and repatriate stolen Italian art from across international boundaries. But the Italian state now faces intensifying demands to return art and antiquities that its own élites and government officials appropriated during Italy's colonial occupation of Libya and Ethiopia. Why has restitution surged in political prominence, and how has Italy turned the issue to its advantage? This talk will explain the unique components of Italian cultural power—a controversial convergence of nationalism, private capital, and international diplomacy -- and why they have positioned Italy as an authority on restitution within the EU and Mediterranean region.

Fiona Greenland is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia. She studies nationalism, art markets, and the politics of cultural heritage. Her book, Ruling Culture: Art Police, Tomb Robbers, and the Rise of Cultural Power in Italy, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2021. It traces the ascendence of the Italian state's elite Art Squad and its ongoing effort to eradicate tomb robbing and artifact smuggling from its territories. Her new project examines the pioneering efforts of Jewish artists and survivors to repatriate Nazi-looted art from the West German and Italian governments in the 1960s and 1970s. Greenland’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Institute of the Humanities and Global Culture at the University of Virginia. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Cultural Sociology, Nations and Nationalism, Sociological Theory, and Theory and Society, among other outlets. She is the founder and co-director of the CURIA Lab (Cultural Resilience Informatics and Analysis). For more information:

Meets in person in Room 555 Weiser Hall, or you can tune in via Zoom. Registration for the Zoom webinar is required at

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: European, Sociology
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for European Studies, International Institute, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, Department of Sociology, Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology