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International Trade Law and Cultural Diversity Workshop

Another exciting (for me) component of my March visit to the Cultural Property Research Group in Göttingen was my participation in a the first day of a two day workshop led by the members of the project’s sub-project titled “Constituting Cultural Property as Part of the International Law Regime, and its Development.” This research foci is directed by Professor Dr. Peter-Tobias Stoll (an international law scholar at Göttingen) and includes several talented doctoral students as researchers. Their sub-project description notes:

The discussions and negotiations of cultural property in the Intergovernmental Committee of WIPO are closely linked to other policy areas, institutions and regulatory realms. Among others, these include the long-standing efforts to arrive at a form of human rights protection for indigenous peoples, the international cultural policy pursued by UNESCO – the Conventions for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003), developments in international law concerning the environment, and controversies in the World Trade Organization over protecting intellectual heritage. The interactions, and intersections, between these various efforts in international law are the subject of this sub-project. In doing so, what is at issue is a forward-looking analysis of internal compatibility and the linkage in terms of process with other regulatory realms, as well as the development of corresponding methods. The knowledge obtained from individual cases here can be used to create a more general means of regarding the international law regime, one which is characterized by increasing differentiation and a need to coordinate the individual sub-realms that have developed. (source)

In the March 19-20, 2010 workshop led by the sub-project group and participated in by the larger Cultural Property Research Group as a whole, the aim was to describe research findings to date, to articulate them with the models and findings developing in other sub-projects, and to bounce these ideas off of a group of guest scholars visiting for the occasion.  The topics considered on these days included: (1) International Trade Law and Cultural Diversity, (2) Fragmentation, and (3) International Negotiations in Different Fora, Regimes, and Organizations.  The two main guests invited were Michael Hahn of the University of Lausanne and Nele Matz-Lück of the MPI Heidelberg. I was able to participate in the opening session in which Stoll described very effectively the state of play in these related domains of international law vis-a-vis the work of the sub-group and the total project as a whole.  This was followed by a rich set of commentaries by the two special guests and a very fruitful discussion by all of the participants.

I was struck by two aspects of this experience. One was the very effective degree to which the various sub-projects of the overall project were contributing very fruitfully to one another, despite considerable difference in disciplinary backgrounds and norms (in economics, social anthropology, folklore/ethnology, and law). The other was the remarkable effectiveness of the institutions that the group has developed for communicating internally and externally and for moving the research process forward fruitfully despite the size and complexity of the undertaking.  As was true throughout my visit, my participation in the International Law Workshop was instructive in both substantive ways and in terms of what it taught me about organizing large and ambitious collaborative research projects.

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