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Cambridge Art History Research Seminars: Art & Law: Sacred Security: Threat, Vulnerability, and the Protection of Sacred Art in Nepal

Donna Yates (Lecturer in Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime, Trafficking Culture Project, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University of Glasgow)
When Feb 15, 2017
from 05:00 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Lecture Room 2, Department of History of Art
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The challenges faced by South Asian countries tasked with protecting sacred art and architecture are a study in contrasting stakeholder needs with little room for compromise. Sacred sites must be both accessible to devotees and inaccessible to thieves. Sacred objects must be both documented and photographed and prevented from being documented and photographed due to religious restrictions. Sacred art must be both retained by the state and by heritage authorities and must serve the public in the face of both poverty and foreign market demand.

Thus, when it comes to the protection of sacred art in Nepal, we have a conflict between access and security stemming from the various values systems that regard sacred art as important. Lawmakers, communities and heritage professionals, then, are forced to make nearly impossible choices about which set of values they give primacy. Yet it is the middle space between these contrasting values that protection law and practice are built, and the results are rarely effective in the best of times. In this talk, Dr Donna Yates will discuss the realities of the protection of sacred art in contemporary Nepal, against the backdrop of natural disaster, social upheaval, and political change.

Speaker Biography:

Donna Yates is a Lecturer in Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime at the University of Glasgow's Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. An archaeologist by training, Yates is based out of a criminology department and is one of the founding members of the Trafficking Culture research consortium which conducts evidence-based inquiry into the global illicit trafficking of cultural objects. Her research broadly focuses on social aspects of antiquities trafficking, art crime, and related cultural property issues. Yates has recently held a Leverhulme Fellowship and a Core Fulbright Award to study the on-the-ground effects of high-level cultural policy in Latin America and her current work involves security for and protection of sacred art in Latin America and South Asia. Her research and other open research materials can be found on her ever-growing collection of websites, including,,, and