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Negotiating Culture

Negotiating Culture: Heritage, Ownership, and Intellectual Property

EDITED BY Laetitia La Follette
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Negotiating Culture
    Book Description:

    Rival claims of ownership or control over various aspects of culture are a regular feature of our twentyfirstcentury world. Such debates are shaping disciplines as diverse as anthropology and archaeology, art history and museum studies, linguistics and genetics. This provocative collection of essays—a series of case studies in cultural ownership by scholars from a range of fields—explores issues of cultural heritage and intellectual property in a variety of contexts, from contests over tangible artifacts as well as more abstract forms of culture such as language and oral traditions to current studies of DNA and genes that combine nature and culture, and even new, nonproprietary models for the sharing of digital technologies. Each chapter sets the debate in its historical and disciplinary context and suggests how the approaches to these issues are changing or should change. One of the most innovative aspects of the volume is the way each author recognizes the social dimensions of group ownership and demonstrates the need for negotiation and new models. The collection as a whole thus challenges the reader to reevaluate traditional ways of thinking about cultural ownership and to examine the broader social contexts within which negotiation over the ownership of culture is taking place. In addition to Laetitia La Follette, contributors include David Bollier, Stephen Clingman, Susan DiGiacomo, Oriol PiSunyer, Margaret Speas, Banu Subramaniam, Joe Watkins, and H. Martin Wobst.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-270-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Art & Art History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION NEGOTIATING OWNERSHIP CLAIMS Changing Attitudes toward Cultural Property
    (pp. 1-12)
    Laetitia La Follette

    Rival claims in the realm of culture represent some of the most contentious issues in the world today, appearing in the news on a weekly if not daily basis. Some of the highest-profile cases have involved disputes over material objects—Native American remains, Greek and Roman antiquities, works of art looted by the Nazis—with important repercussions for museums as well as the disciplines of anthropology, archaeology, and art history. But debates over the ownership and control of nontangible cultural property are also shaping fields as diverse as economics, history, genetic studies, linguistics, and philosophy. The results are changing attitudes...


    • 1 THE POLITICS OF ARCHAEOLOGY Heritage, Ownership, and Repatriation
      (pp. 15-37)
      Joe Watkins

      It is probably safe to say that everyone has an opinion on the repatriation legislation that came out of Congress in 1989 and 1990, the National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAIA) and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which require U.S. government agencies and federally funded museums to return cultural items, including human remains, to Native American tribes, and also established procedures governing the excavation of Native American sites on federal or tribal land. Some anthropologists saw the legislation as an opportunity to further their field of study, noting that “NAGPRA will allow bioarcheology to...

      (pp. 38-71)
      Laetitia La Follette

      The indictment of Marion True, curator of classical art at the J. Paul Getty Museum, by a Roman court in 2005 on charges of conspiring to traffic in illicit antiquities marked a dramatic shift in the history of ownership claims over contested works of ancient art. This chapter shows how the indictment changed the way premier museums in the United States acquire classical Greek and Roman art and resulted in the repatriation of over a hundred such cultural artifacts to Italy and Greece so far. In its impact on art museum policy, True’s trial, together with the negotiations that led...

    • 3 THE SALAMANCA PAPERS A Cultural Property Episode in Post-Franco Spain
      (pp. 72-98)
      Oriol Pi-Sunyer and Susan M. DiGiacomo

      The devastating civil war of 1936–1939 has long been seen, not the least by foreign historians, as the defining moment of modern Spanish history. In its time, the heroic struggle of the Republic aroused the admiration of anti-fascist Western intellectuals to an unprecedented degree and helped turn the conflict into an international cause. Regarding this generation, the Irish poet Louis MacNeice wrote, “our spirit / Would find its frontier on the Spanish front, / Its body in a rag-tag army.” Although the war and its aftermath now seem remote in time and strangely archaic in form, it is again...


      (pp. 101-121)
      Margaret Speas

      In 2005, four representatives of the Mapuche people of Chile wrote to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates to express “profound concerns regarding the scope of the agreement between Microsoft and the government of Chile which aims at creating a Windows operating system in our ancestral language, the Mapudungun.” They asserted that “only the Mapuche People must and can safeguard, maintain, manage, develop and recreate its cultural heritage.”¹ The following year the Mapuche launched a lawsuit to block the Microsoft Mapudungun project, charging intellectual piracy. This reaction came as a shock to those who believed they were building a tool that would...

      (pp. 122-144)
      H. Martin Wobst

      This chapter focuses on interactions between professional archaeologists and members of Indigenous populations, in the traditional lands of Indigenous people. The world’s Indigenous people as defined here are not neatly or categorically different from other descendant groups, and they are not a racial category. Instead, they are culturally and politically defined, and they are quite different from each other. I have chosen them as my topic primarily because the cultural differences between many Indigenous people and archaeologists are often quite massive, particularly when it comes to cultural patrimony and intellectual property.¹ Pragmatically, that makes it easier to think about potential...


    • 6 RE-OWNING THE PAST DNA and the Politics of Belonging
      (pp. 147-169)
      Banu Subramaniam

      The essays in this volume highlight the complexities of ownership and belonging in a world where contested definitions of ownership and commodification loom large, and where multiple histories, colonization, shifting national boundaries, and inequities in wealth and power have created vastly unequal players. The many issues that the authors bring to the table—from the controversies over very material objects like bones and historical objects and artifacts, to more abstract questions of the ownership of intellectual property such as ideas and creative works—force us to examine what we mean by culture as well as ownership, revealing the deep disciplinary...

    • 7 DIGITAL COMMONS The Rise of New Models of Collaborative Ownership
      (pp. 170-187)
      David Bollier

      Our understandings of ownership—the value associated with private-property rights—are changing profoundly in the emerging networked environment. Although markets remain a powerful force for creating certain types of wealth, a new social institution that combines productive activity with self-governance and new forms of property rights is starting to emerge:the commons.

      In many respects, there is nothing new about the commons; it has been a paradigm for managing resources communities from time immemorial. But now that the commons is becoming a robust model for production and governance in Internet contexts, it is attracting attention as a form of social...

    (pp. 188-198)
    Stephen Clingman

    The essays in this volume cover a broad range of topics, from questions of open source access on the Internet, to issues of heritage and ownership among native and aboriginal communities, to questions of who owns our genes, to claims on artworks, papers, languages, and archaeological finds in national and international contexts, and more. The settings range from North America to Italy to India to Spain to—if we take the Internet or the genetic landscape as our model—“everywhere.” It seems fitting, in such a context, to reflect by way of a conclusion on the question of boundaries and...

    (pp. 199-200)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 201-209)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 210-210)