Between “colonial amnesia” and “victimization biases”. Double standards in Italian cultural heritage law

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This article aims at offering a critical appraisal of the evolution of Italian cultural heritage law, with respect to issues of colonial and war restitutions and of controls over the import of potentially trafficked cultural property. As Italy is usually considered a “source country” and a victim of historical depredations, a form of “selective blindness” to its colonial past and to its role at the receiving end of both past and current misappropriations of cultural objects is discussed. Some recent restitutions of cultural property taken in times of colonial occupation are also analysed, as signals of a possible change in policy and practice, but highlighting, too, the features of political expediency which influenced them, as well as the many legal and practical obstacles still to be faced by restitution and repatriation claims. Finally, the potential effects of recent (mostly international) inputs on Italy’s cultural heritage policy are presented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-551
Number of pages573
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Property
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Italian colonialism
  • Italian cultural heritage law
  • colonial amnesia
  • criminal law
  • cultural objects acquired during colonial occupation
  • cultural property trafficking
  • export and import controls
  • return and restitution claims
  • victimization biases


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