Ethical Partnerships in the Modern University

Growing attention to the questionable acquisitions practices of the Hobby Lobby and the Green family for the creation of the Museum of the Bible highlights both the scale of the problem and the degree to which current polices fail to prevent such activities. In spite of advice from Patty Gerstenblith, an expert on cultural property law, in 2010 the Hobby Lobby purchased over five thousand ancient Iraqi artefacts of suspect provenance and shipped them under false or misleading labels to obscure their country of origin and content. Questions about the Hobby Lobby and the Green Scholars Initiative have been raised by papyrologists for some time now (see the work of Roberta Mazza among others), following the announcement of the publication of a new Sappho fragment in 2014. Whilst dubious private collections are by no means a novel feature of the academic landscape, questions about the ethics of engaging with such collections are becoming more prominent. The role of academics and institutions in the implicit laundering of artefacts through authentification and publication is increasingly coming under greater scrutiny. Such a rapidly shifting ethical landscape runs the risk of stranding people on the wrong side of the divide, especially those whose disadvantaged position in the academy (the great itinerant insecure workforce shimmering under the sandstone establishment) incentivises publication and funding at any risk.

In Australia with increased cuts to the government funding of higher education, many universities are encouraging researchers to seek a greater proportion of their funding from private donors, industry and philanthropic organisations. The proven ability of researchers (and / or departments) to attract external funding has become the central performance indicator for jobs, promotions and further funding support. But what does this do to the ethical landscape of our universities?

The influence of industry over the shape and endurance of research programs in the sciences has been obvious enough. Less attention however has been devoted to the impact of private money on humanities research. Politically motivated research is not new, but its current manifestation in the research landscape may be less obvious than classic examples of imperially sponsored history. Private funding without oversight can influence everything from the areas studied, the research funded, the courses offered and the questions asked. The destruction of mummy masks by scholars and students within the orbit of the Green’s enterprise in order to recover the improbable Christian papyri they sought  (as Mazza and others have noted, no Christian papyri have been found in such a context) represents one case in which ideology determined which aspect of the past was worthy of survival.

Now, any archaeological or interpretative consideration of antiquity involves a choice of focus. The latter engagement is less likely to involve a choice with catastrophic consequences for any focus which isn’t selected. Archaeology too, when done responsibly, *should* aim to preserve as much as possible and ground any unavoidable destruction in exhaustive and rigorous reasoning. *Should*.  The destruction of the Coptic monastic remains in 1902 at the site of Deir el-Bahri by Naville on behalf of the Egypt Exploration Fund in order to recover Hatshepsut’s temple (as a major tourist attraction) is a key example of what can happen.

The manipulation of the past is much more apparent when it comes in material form. However, we should be just as concerned, if not more so, with the largely invisible manipulations caused by the subordination of institutions to private interests. For researchers this means asking difficult questions about where the available funding we are applying for comes from and whether it comes with strings attached. It involves asking whether we are endorsing particular organisations and activities by accepting such funding. It pushes us to think about how complicit we are in legitimising particular groups. It means, above all, thinking about the best way to create transparent relationships with external partners which protect our research integrity.

This means thinking a little bit more about what research and teaching integrity looks like for a particular department and a particular researcher. What does it mean to develop a teaching and research program organically and in response to the needs of the field and to the needs of the broader community (rather than the needs of the budget and cashed-up specialist interest groups within that community)?

Increasingly universities are being asked to demonstrate their relevance and significance to the broader community and universities are using their record of external funding to answer that question. However, private and industry funders do not a broad Australian public make.

Private funding should not and will never be eliminated from universities. The peculiarity of popular politics in the last few decades would seem to point to the value of having sources of funding available outside those determined by the government of the day. Many donors, industry partners, and philanthropic organisations engage with universities for the best possible reasons and in pursuit of exactly the sorts of goals researchers would applaud. Things go wrong, however, when the purpose and value of the university as an independent institution gets forgotten or co-opted in the politics of laundering someone else’s agenda. Academics have a responsibility in all this; in formulating, understanding, and protecting what is unique about the institution in its most ideal form.

Rachel

Markers of Authenticity – Semester 2 Schedule 2017

MoABanner

August 14, 2:00–4:00 pm, AHH 5.212:Faking the News’ with Dr Colin Klein (Philosophy) and Dr Margie Borschke (MMCCS)

September 5, 4:00–6:00 pm, AHH 5.212: ‘The Authentic Terrorist?: Mobilising the Past, Battling for the Future’ with Dr Julian Droogan (SSC)

October 13–14, X5B 321: ‘IMAGINING THE REAL: ALTERNATIVE (ARTE)FACTS FROM ANTIQUITY TO THE PRESENT DAY’, a two day symposium with keynote lecture by Prof. John Melville Jones

October 26, 4:00–6:00 pm, AHH 5.212: ‘Creative Authenticity: Originality and the Real’ with Dr. Mio Bryce (INTS) and Dr Ilona Hongisto (MMCCS)

November 2, 6:00–9:00 pm, TBA‘Authenticity of Experience: History and Gaming’ with Dr Rowan Tulloch (MMCCS), Daniel Keogh (Educational Games Designer, 3P Learning), and Abbie Hartman (MHPIR)

November 9, 4:00–6:00 pm, AHH Lvl 5, Board Room: ‘Authenticity of Desire’ with Dr Thomas Baudinette (INTS), Dr Karin Sellberg (Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, UQ) and Dr Chelsea Barnett (Modern History)

Fake Out: Misinformation and Belief

Our first seminar for the second semester of Markers of Authenticity will take place this Monday, the 14th of August, from 2–4pm in our new premises in the Australian Hearing Hub, Level 5, Seminar Room 212. 

This week Dr Colin Klein (Philosophy) and Dr Margie Borschke (MMCCS) will be talking to us about the phenomenon of Fake News. 

IMG_0010

Is fake news real? Is it a meaningful category? What does it mean to ‘fake’ the news? Is it a problem of consumption or production? Now that ‘fake news’ is ‘old news’, what can we learn from this transformation of our media discourse about the tangling of reason and belief in our everyday experience of the world? This workshop examines these issues from media and cognitive perspectives, revisiting questions about authenticity, truth, rhetoric, belief and objectivity in academia and the world.

My internship on the ‘Forging Antiquity’ Project

For the first half of 2017, Vanessa Mawby participated in the ‘Forging Antiquity’ Project as an undergraduate intern within Macquarie University’s PACE Program. Below she reflects on her experience during the internship.

This semester I was given the opportunity to work as a project intern on the ARC Discovery Project, ‘Forging Antiquity: Authenticity, forgery and fake papyri’, through the Macquarie University PACE program, with A/Prof. Malcolm Choat, and Dr. Rachel Yuen-Collingridge. Primarily, I was tasked with creating an index of the ‘Recueil d’anciennes écritures’, a 16th century manuscript by Pierre Hamon, and reuniting the copies he made with original manuscripts and artefacts. The process was a little grueling but rewarding nonetheless, and honestly, it felt like detective work.

On opening the manuscript you are immediately bombarded with all sorts of crazy scripts and alphabets. Hamon labels some as ‘Latin’, but they looked so foreign, I had to take his word for it. Another immediate hurdle was learning to read Hamon’s own challenging cursive script, in which his difficult 16th century French was written. But as the weeks rolled by, Hamon and I developed a working relationship where I was becoming accustomed to his way of writing, and slowly deciphering the alphabets. I’m not exaggerating when I say that with every alphabet/deciphered, there’d be actual whoops of joy in the office.

The next big step was locating the manuscripts from which Hamon had copied the alphabets and sample texts appearing in his own collection. We knew a lot of them were likely to be held now by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France archives, but I’m going to be honest; trawling through the thousands of manuscripts and other artefacts in the archive, and painstakingly comparing them to Hamon’s work seemed a task too large to even approach. Luckily for me, I was equipped with an article by H. Omont, which gave a partial guide to which artefacts Hamon was copying, and in some cases, even a BnF archive number.

After numerous twists and turns leading to dead ends, medieval runes, and even Roman inscriptions, the index was mostly complete and it was time to turn to translating a Latin work by Bartholemew Germon, an 18th century Jesuit scholar, who discussed the authenticity of an extract of the charta plenariae securitatis which appears in Hamon’s manuscript. After weeks of dealing with Hamon’s fascinating and strange manuscript, it was almost a relief to be reading Latin, albeit 18th century Latin.

ForgeryPaperTeam
Vanessa Mawby (left), with Rachel Yuen-Collingridge and Malcolm Choat, Markers of Authenticity Seminar Series, 2/6/17, Museum of Ancient Cultures, Macquarie University

To complete my semester as a project intern, I presented a short paper alongside my supervisors at a Markers of Authenticity seminar hosted at Macquarie University. I’d never presented before, let alone with a team, so it was a nerve-racking experience to say the least. But I found that presenting as a team provided a safety net for me, and the successful presentation showcased our collaborative work.

If this internship has taught me anything about forgers and the relationship between disciplinary practice, it’s that there’s so much more to the ‘forger’ and their ‘forgeries’ than can be immediately assumed. Instead of generating new texts from scratch, as I had previously supposed, the ‘forgeries’ in Hamon’s manuscript display his method of excerpting texts and stitching pieces together to create new texts, which are only minutely different from their authentic counterparts. This discovery broadened my understanding of the many ways in which forgeries can be made.

Next semester, although completing my PACE activity, I will be staying on the project as a research assistant for the next phase of the project on Constantine Simonides. It’s sad to be saying good-bye to Hamon, but I don’t think any of us will yet be able to say, ‘case closed’.

Vanessa Mawby

2017 Seminar Series: Semester 1

Dear all;

The interdisciplinary seminar series “Markers of Authenticity” continues in session 1 2017 with the program of events listed below. Please join us for these seminars, for which we will send out reminders and abstracts closer to their respective dates.

Friday May 26, 1:00–2:30 pm W6A 308 (Ancient Cultures Research Centre Seminar Room)

‘On Authenticity and Race’

Adam Hochman (Department of Philosophy, Macquarie University), with a response by Andrew Gillett (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University)

Discussion connecting race and authenticity tends to focus on the issue of ‘authentic’ racial identity. In this conversation, Hochman will explore some other, under-examined connections between the concepts. making the case that social constructionism about race – understood as the view that race is a social kind – creates a range of authenticity problems. It is unclear which groups count as de facto races under a social definition of the concept. Is there, or has there ever been, a Jewish race? A Muslim race? Consequently, it is unclear who has the appropriate expertise to speak about race. This problem appears especially in debates about whether race is modern. In other words, who are the ‘authentic’ race scholars? Hochman will suggest a solution to these authenticity problems, which involves a thoroughgoing rejection of racial ontology, and the replacement of race with the category of the racialized group.

Friday 2 June, 4:00–5:30 pm, X5B 321 (Museum of Ancient Cultures Seminar Room)

‘Forging Antiquity: Insights from a new ARC Discovery Project’

Malcolm Choat, Rachel Yuen-Collingridge, and Vanessa Mawby (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University)

The Australian Research Council Discovery project ‘Forging Antiquity: Authenticity, forgery and fake papyri’, a collaboration between the Macquarie University and the University of Heidelberg, began in early 2017 with a study of two sixteenth century scholars, Pierre Hamon and Jean Mabillon and the earliest forged papyrus in the modern age. The treatment of the papyrus by these two scholars illuminates the emergence of methods and resources for the authentification of documents which are still in use today. By comparing the techniques developed to both construct and uncover the forgery, we will demonstrate how the two processes are entwined and provide salient lessons about the communication and reception of scientific practice.

Friday 9 June, 4:00–5:30 pm, X5B 321 (Museum of Ancient Cultures Seminar Room)

‘The Internet Antiquities Trade: Insight into an Invisible Market?’

Lauren Dundler (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University) and Iain Shearer

In the past two decades, the emergence of an Internet market for antiquities has invited new challenges and concerns for policing and regulating the trade of cultural artefacts. Surprisingly, few have responded to these issues with research output. The Internet is a public archive which offers a unique and unprecedented glimpse into the trade of antiquities. There are, of course, still limitations in our understanding when viewing the market through this lens, but this does not detract from the valuable insight we can gain through providing rigorous analyses of the Internet market for antiquities. This discussion will examine how traditional market values of provenance and authenticity have been translated to an Internet forum, creating a market that is parallel, yet distinct, to the existing trade of antiquities.

We look forward to seeing you there and continuing the discussions which emerged in our 2016 seminars.
All are welcome!
Best regards,
The Markers of Authenticity team, Rachel Yuen-Collingridge, Lauren Dundler, and Malcolm Choat

The Year That Was

Our inaugural year of Marker’s of Authenticity is coming to an end and so it seems timely to reflect on the discussions stimulated and developed throughout our new seminar series.

The first two seminars were presented by our two co-founders, Rachel Yuen-Collingridge and Malcolm Choat. Rachel’s paper started the series off with a confronting yet productive discussion of how different disciplinary stances identify and police authenticity. In doing so, Rachel raised questions of the re-enactment, restoration and the recollection of the past within an interdisciplinary framework. These questions stayed with us for the entirety of the series and were re-addressed in Rachel’s timely discussion of cultural appropriation in our final seminar of the year.
 In our second seminar, Malcolm introduced our audience to Constantine Simonides, the 19th century master forger and his creation of a series of fake papyri which validated his own theories about the translation of hieroglyphs. Setting his research within a discussion of the legal definition of forgery, Malcolm provoked questions about our relationship with authenticity and the tools used to generate distinctions between “fakes” and “copies.”
mc
Associate Professor Malcolm Choat (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University)
These legal themes followed through in the next seminar, presented by Lucas Lixinski, from the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales. Lucas’ provided a fascinating challenge to existing legal definitions of tangible and intangible cultural heritage by identifying how the vocabulary of “authenticity” has negatively impacted on the experiences of local communities and other traditional owners of heritage. Ultimately, he concluded that the only real solution to these ethical issues would involve abandoning this existing vocabulary and moving forward with more collaborative strategies involving the perspectives of the typically neglected stakeholders.
Our next seminar saw the discussion move to a very different, albeit fascinating, context: authorship and the drafting process. Marcelle Freiman (Department of English, Macquarie University) located her analysis of drafting and revision within the problematizing of concepts of authenticity, authorship, and authority in 20th century literary studies, using her work on cognitive processes and the extended mind to reinstate the writer in the creative process, focusing on the drafting visible in manuscript copies of 19th century literature.
mf
Dr Marcelle Freiman (Department of English, Macquarie University)

Our final seminar for semester one saw the return to ancient world studies and was presented by Javier Alverz-Mon (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University). Javier highlighted the damage done to our understanding of history by the trade in looted antiquities, the problematic response to the issue in some academic quarters, and the duty of academics studying the ancient world to speak ethically on its behalf, and on behalf of the nations on and in which we conduct research.

Semester two started with a panel titled “The Authenticity of the Museum Experience”, featuring representatives from local museum institutions. The discussion started with Arul Baskaran, Digital Studio Manager at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, asking if we were trading off realism vs the authentic in the context of the production and display of digital reproductions of objects. As the objects themselves are a critical part of the stories museums tell, how much do we take away from the story by removing the object itself? Next, Craig Barker, from the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney, discussed the value of replicas within a museum context, if labeled as such. He noted changing perspectives in this regard by discussing the extensive (and now lost) plaster cast collection the Nicholson had up to the 1960’s, which are themselves artifacts of the view of antiquities in the Victorian era. Finally, Andrew Simpson, who teaches Museum Studies at Macquarie University, dealt with the privileging of the original within museum culture, and the multiple layers of authenticity, some dependent on context, which objects possess.

In the following seminar, Louise D’Arcens (Department of English, Macquarie University) spoke about the ‘marketplace of Authenticity’ produced by the commercialisation and commodification of cultural heritage and heritage tourism, examining this through the lens of Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory. After the paper, we discussed whether the idea of an authentic past can co-exist with the demands of heritage tourism for an authentic experience of the past.

lda
Professor Louise D’Arcens (Department of English, Macquarie University)
Then, in a special seminar co-sponsored with the research seminar series of the Department of International Studies, Meg Mumford (School of the Arts and Media, UNSW), and Ulrike Garde (Dept. of International Studies, Macquarie University) presented the examination of the Berlin theatre movement discussed in their book Theatre of Real People: Diverse Encounters at Berlin’s Hebbel am Ufer and BeyondTheir discussion introduced us to Knaller & Muller’s argument that authenticity is ‘constituted by performative act and observation.’ Through this framework, authenticity is not given, fixed nor static but rather the product of agreement that needs to be renewed with each authenticating act.

In the same week we hosted Margie Borschke from the Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies (Macquarie University). Margie discussedthe aesthetics of circulation, asserting that an understanding of what it means to be a ‘copy’ was crucial to a proper understanding of the internet. She problematized various descriptions of ‘copy’ in the digital age, locating her discussion within both theoretical work on authenticity by Walter Benjamin and Charles Taylor, and consideration of notions of the authentic and genuine in popular music and music communities, drawing on material from her forthcoming book This is not a Remix: Piracy, Authenticity and Popular Music (Bloomsbury, 2017). Please check out her Storify presentation here.

The 2016 series ended with a roundtable forum on ‘Markers of Authenticity across the disciplines’, in which the 2016 speakers, as well as Dr Natalie Seiz (Curator, Asian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales) addressed two questions provided by the convenors: “What use do you make of the concept of authenticity in your research and/or practice?”, and “How can this concept be ethically applied to the rules and practice of your discipline?”

group
(L-R) Louise D’Arcens, Ulrike Grande, Meg Mumford, Marcelle Freiman, Natalie Seiz, Malcolm Choat, Javier Alverz-Mon, Andrew Simpson, Margie Borsche, Lauren Dundler and Rachel-Yuen Collingridge
Over the ten seminar sessions we hosted, we found ourselves constantly redefining our understanding of authenticity in the context of an array of interdisciplinary frameworks. For some presenters, authenticity was a legal tool used to shape discussions around ownership. Others drew attention to the malleable nature of authenticity, which is reliant on the negotiation of social contracts for its identity. What we were left with was an understanding of our narrow our previous focus had been and a glimpse into an exciting future of interdisciplinary collaboration around these ideas of authenticity, authorship, forgery and identity.
We’d like to end this reflection with a note of appreciation to our presenters and faithful audience and also with a call for papers. We intend on continuing these discussions in 2017 and if you would like to be a part, reach out to the team with your proposal.
All the best for the festive season,
from Malcolm, Rachel and Lauren

Semester 2 Seminars

Our interdisciplinary seminar series continues in semester 2 and we have a dynamic program on offer designed to extend the discussions we have shared so far in Markers of Authenticity.

Have a look at the upcoming series and come join us for an afternoon of interdisciplinary conversation and refreshments. Also, if you are interested in attending the workshop on ‘Scripture, Reception, and Authenticity,’ held on the 9th of September, please get in contact with us.

All are welcome! We look forward to seeing you and hearing your thoughts once more!