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Posts from the ‘Property’ Category

Value, Ownership, and Cultural Goods: Regina F. Bendix to Deliver 2016 Richard M. Dorson Memorial Lecture

This is the season’s big lecture. With many heritage studies projects underway, it is a perfect time to welcome Regina back to Bloomington. Here are the details:

2016 Richard M. Dorson Memorial Folklore Lecture
Join us for the 6th Annual Richard M. Dorson Memorial Folklore Lecture.

“Value, Ownership, and Cultural Goods”

Regina F. Bendix, University of Gottingen, Germany

Monday, March 21, 2016
6:00-8:00 pm
800 N Indiana Ave

A reception will follow the lecture.


Since the mid-1990s, scholarship on heritage has blossomed – some might say boomed – and brought forth a plethora of new journals and studies in many languages, not least due to the vigorous work and impact of UNESCO’s heritage programs. UNESCO’s work on behalf of “cultural goods” reaches back roughly sixty years and has yielded many policy suggestions, conventions and programs. UNESCO’s activities in turn mobilized other international agencies concerned less with safeguarding valuables and more with ownership and group rights. They point toward ways in which different groups of actors harness the notions of tradition, folklore, culture or heritage to improve their lot on this earth. In their efforts, such groups are likely assisted more by experts in international law and economics than by students of culture.

For scholars in folklore and related fields, at least two tasks present themselves. One entails a continuation of a by now “traditional” task: understanding how excerpts from cultural scholarship, in their transfer and implementation in the public sphere transform, the practices, people and places we tend to study. A second task builds on this first one: we need to find avenues to communicate better with disciplines and practitioners engaged in establishing the legal norms and the economic projections concerning the fate of culture turned resource.

Association of American Publishers Issues Horrible New Press Release in Support of a Horrible Bill: Where Do You Stand?

The Association of American Publishers has issued a awful new press release expressing enthusiasm for the Research Works Act, H.R. 3699 describing it as “significant legislation that will help reinforce America’s leadership in scholarly and scientific publishing in the public interest and in the critical peer-review system that safeguards the quality of such research.”

This is just the latest in an endless, dispiriting series of commercial publisher FUD campaigns and efforts at the further corporate enclosure of public resources. Advocates for the public interest in scholarship will resist H.R. 3699 and those with vested profits in the terrible status quo will support it. As with FRPAA, as always, a key question is where will the scholarly societies stand? Another is whether any more academic authors and editors will wake up and consider their role in the perpetuation of a system that is not only dysfunctional but also increasingly corrupt and immoral.

Money in politics? Corporate personhood? Policies that harm the poorest and help the most affluent? Academic authors–many of you are not connecting the dots that lead to your own practices.

Another question is where do those AAP members that are not-for-profit university presses (Chicago, California, Hawaii, North Carolina, Illinois (sigh), Texas, Tennessee) stand? Is the AAP speaking for you on this one? Don’t forget PRISM, y’all.

@Mukurtu Project Wins Major IMLS Grant

Congratulations to Kim Christen and everyone working on the Mukurtu project on news that the effort has received a major grant from the (U.S.) Institute for Museum and Library Services (announced here). This is a major development for a major project.

As noted on the Mukurtu project site, Mukurtu is “A free and open source community content management system that provides international standards-based tools adaptable to the local cultural protocols and intellectual property systems of Indigenous communities, libraries, archives, and museums.” It is “a flexible archival tool that allows users to protect, preserve and share digital cultural heritage through Mukurtu Core steps and unique Traditional Knowledge licenses.”

Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights

My review of Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights by former NEA Chairman (and AFS President) Bill Ivey was recently published in JFRR (Journal of Folklore Research Reviews). JFRR is an open access fork of the established toll access folklore journal Journal of Folklore Research. JFRR publishes reviews of diverse media in folklore studies and circulates the reviews via email.  They are also available in search-able form online at

My review can be found online here:

Noyes on the Oversimplications of Cultural Property and Heritage Policy

An important working paper by my friend Dorry Noyes presenting alternatives to the conceptual oversimplifications common in cultural property and cultural heritage policy has just been circulated by the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Cultural Property at the University of Göttingen. Help make the argument even stronger with your comments and feedback here:

Lots to think with and work on.

Cultural Subjects and Objects: The Legacy of Franz Boas and Its Futures in Anthropology, Academe, and Human Rights

In April 2008, I had the honor of participating in a symposium organized for the spring meeting of the American Philosophical Society held at the APS’s campus in Philadelphia. The APS Library holds many archival collections of great relevance to my research and its Phillips Fund has been a crucial source of support for my work and for that of students with whom I work. The symposium was titled: “Cultural Subjects and Objects: The Legacy of Franz Boas and Its Futures in Anthropology, Academe, and Human Rights” and it was organized on behalf of the membership by Carol Greenhouse and timed to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Franz Boas’ birth. Boas’ papers are curated by the APS and they are absolutely crucial sources for the history of anthropology and American intellectual and political life more broadly. The APS thus has a long history of engagement with Boas’ work.

Professor Greenhouse generously recruited me to the symposium relatively late in the planning process, after a previously committed (and much more senior and distinguished) scholar needed to withdraw from participation for personal reasons. This was a wonderful opportunity for me. I was eager to reflect upon the contemporary salience of Boas’ work for my own and attendance at an APS meeting is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was able to share my reflections with an audience that included not only distinguished anthropologists such as Ward Goodenough and Regna Darnell but also the leaders of intellectual life in the United States more broadly. It was simply amazing to be listened to respectfully by a hall full of APS members and to be asked questions by scholars of such breadth and sophistication. Howard Gardner was among those who posed questions after my talk and, because I was speaking of a legal questions, Judith Resnik and Judge David S. Tatel were among the jurists who kindly invited me to join them for lunch to struggle with making sense of cultural property issues and to discuss cases in American Indian law. As a speaker at the conference, I was a guest of the society and was able to enjoy other presentations on the program. I heard amazing presentations on a staggering range of topics. The most memorable was by Bonnie L. Bassler, a molecular biologist whose presentation on cell to cell communication in bacteria was a revelation and a demonstration of how good an effective teacher can be. (She went on to make a similar presentation as a TED Talk in February 2009.)

The Boas Symposium included a moving introduction by Professor Greenhouse and four presentations. Lee Baker spoke on “Franz Boas and His “Conspiracy” to Destroy the White Race.” James A. Boon presented “On Alternating Boasians: Generational Connections.” Nicholas B. Dirks offered “Reflections on Fieldwork in University Administration: The Liberal Arts in Global Perspective.” My own presentation was titled “Boasian Ethnography and Contemporary Intellectual Property Debates.”

I am recalling all of this history now because I am happy to report that the symposium has now been published in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. It appears in the April 2010 issue, which is volume 154, number 1. While the Proceedings eventually appear in JSTOR, they are available freely and immediately online from the APS website. The APS publication staff does a wonderful job editing the Proceedings and they are beautifully produced. Articles are provided to the world (open access!) in PDF format. (The titles of Professors Baker and Dirks presentations are somewhat changed in publication.)

My thanks go to the members and officers of the APS, as well as to Professor Greenhouse, for including me in these efforts. If anyone is interested in my own paper, it can be found here (pdf). It is my first real attempt at discussing intellectual property issues in light of my Oklahoma ethnography and Boasian work on “incorporeal property.”

Essay on Enclosure in Scholarly Communication Updated

I have updated my earlier essay on enclosure in scholarly communications with a sort of index (at the end of the piece) of all of the major discussions of it of which I am aware. While there have been exchanges and posts on various weblogs, the main “debates” have happened on listservs in the OA and librarian communities. Links to the relative archives for these are given in the update. Thanks to everyone who considered the essay and made it my most read piece of writing on this site.

Interdisciplinary Research Group on Cultural Property

I am pleased to share news of a major interdisciplinary research effort related to cultural property issues. Centered at the Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, Regina Bendix (a distinguished alumnus of the folklore program at Indiana) is among the research group’s leaders. The project has just launched its website, which is available in both German and English. Congratulations to Regina and to her colleagues at the Universities of Göttingen and Hamburg.

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