Trafficking Culture is a programme of research, constituted by an overall theme of interest in understanding the international trade in illicit cultural objects (which includes of course the necessity to understand intra-national trade as well), and attempting to develop and refine an evidence base for promoting effective policy interventions to reduce this global form of trafficking. In practical terms, the research programme is taken forward by many mutually reinforcing and in several cases overlapping research strands, each driven by one researcher and supported by the others in the team. These individual projects are set out below. We are always keen to hear from researchers or prospective students who have an idea for a research project which can fit in and support the overall programme, and we can offer advice on sources of potential funding to enable them to be carried out.

General Programme Activity:

  • Quantitative work with sales and acquisitions data in order to provide size and shape estimates for the international illicit market;
  • Natural experimental methods applied to the evaluation of current policy interventions;
  • Case studies of a selection of notable trafficking routes, using ethnographic research methods to follow objects from source to market in order to uncover the trafficking mechanisms used, the circumstances in which these evolve, and the types of criminals involved;
  • Review of other global trafficking markets (drugs, arms, wildlife, etc) to develop theoretical understanding of what works in regulating this type of criminal trade;
  • Qualitative research interviews with key participants in the trade, and with regulation and enforcement professionals;
  • A European comparative study which looks at law and practice regarding the treatment of archaeological finds and their licit and illicit trade in a selection of EU countries.

Current Projects:

Measuring the International Market in Illicit Cultural Objects

Researcher: Neil Brodie

Understanding the International Market in Illicit Cultural Objects

Researcher: Simon Mackenzie

Illicit Traffic in Latin American Antiquities: the dynamics of a criminal market

Researcher: Donna Yates

A Critical Inquiry Into multi-Stakeholder Governance in the Transnational Criminal Antiquities Market: Contrasting Realities and Policies of Practice

Researcher: Jessica Dietzler

Illicit Antiquities Trade in Argentina: the appropriateness of governmental policy to local socio-cultural contexts of looting 

Researcher: Annemiek Rhebergen

The African Past for Sale: Regulatory effects on the illicit market in West African cultural objects

Researcher: Meg Lambert

Cultural Property in Transit: A Case Study of Hong Kong

Researcher: Emiline Smith

From Illicit to Licit: The laundering of looted antiquities into legitimate artworks

Researcher: Tess Davis