DiscoverLaw on FilmIndiana Jones Trilogy (Guest: Lucas Lixinski) (episode 16)
Indiana Jones Trilogy (Guest: Lucas Lixinski) (episode 16)

Indiana Jones Trilogy (Guest: Lucas Lixinski) (episode 16)

Update: 2023-12-05


This episode explores the iconic Indiana Jones trilogy, some of the most popular and well-known movies of all time. The trilogy consists of the first three movies in the series: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984); and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). The films are based on a story by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg. They feature archaeologist (and adventurer) Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) as he travels across the world in the years before World War II to obtain valuable historical, cultural, and religious artifacts. The trilogy (and especially the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark) is the cornerstone of the Indiana Jones franchise, which includes two additional films (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and Dial of Destiny (2023)) as well as a TV series, video game, comic books, novels, theme parks, and toys. The films have inspired countless filmmakers and had a significant effect on cinema and popular culture. They also have important, if less discussed, legal dimensions. This episode examines the trilogy from the perspective of international heritage law (or cultural property law), the body of law centered around the preservation of property with historical, cultural, and/or religious significance. My guest is Lucas Lixinski, Professor at the Faculty of Law & Justice at the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

0:00   Introduction
4:19   Defining international heritage law (or cultural property law)
5:53   The pre-UNESCO and post-UNESCO periods
8:00     What the Indiana Jones films tell us about international heritage law
11:06   How Raiders of the Lost Ark frames the collection of artifacts
16:17   The fine line between looters and collectors
24:12   The questionable claim of saving cultural property from destruction
27:55   The power of Christian artifacts in Raiders and Last Crusade.
31:19   The problem of downplaying the importance of heritage
35:43   Why most items in museums can’t be viewed by the public
38:44   Temple of Doom and a different view of Indy
41:40   Indy’s interaction with non-western and indigenous populations
44:49   Indy's legacy for archaeology
46:53   A victor’s perspective?
49:29   Favorite Indiana Jones film?

Further reading:

Esterling, Shea, “Indiana Jones and the Illicit Trafficking and Repatriation of Cultural Objects,” in Courting the Media: Contemporary Perspectives on Media and the Law 127-48 (Nova 2011)

Killgrove, Kristina, “The Enduring Myths of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’” The Smithsonian (June 8. 2021)

Lixinski, Lucas, “Moral, Legal and Archaeological Relics of the Past: Portrayals of International Cultural Heritage Law in Cinema,” 4(3) London Review of Int’l Law 421-37 (2016)

Nayman, Adam, “Digging Into the Cinematic Archaeology of the Indiana Jones Movies,” The Ringer (Jan. 7, 2019)

Smith, Laurajane, Use of Heritage (Routledge, 2007) 

Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember.
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Indiana Jones Trilogy (Guest: Lucas Lixinski) (episode 16)

Indiana Jones Trilogy (Guest: Lucas Lixinski) (episode 16)

Jonathan Hafetz