Treasured Possessions

9780822354123: Hardback
Release Date: 4th June 2013

9780822354277: Paperback
Release Date: 4th June 2013

26 illustrations, 2 maps

Dimensions: 171 x 216

Number of Pages: 328

Series Objects/Histories

Duke University Press Books

Treasured Possessions

Indigenous Interventions into Cultural and Intellectual Property

The indigenous peoples of the Pacific nations of Vanuatu and New Zealand are reconfiguring global cultural and intellectual property regimes as they successfully advance claims to ancestral practices such as ephemeral sand drawings.
Hardback / £92.00
Paperback / £24.99

What happens when ritual practitioners from a small Pacific nation make an intellectual property claim to bungee jumping? When a German company successfully sues to defend its trademark of a Māori name? Or when UNESCO deems ephemeral sand drawings to be "intangible cultural heritage"? In Treasured Possessions, Haidy Geismar examines how global forms of cultural and intellectual property are being redefined by everyday people and policymakers in two markedly different Pacific nations. The New Hebrides, a small archipelago in Melanesia managed jointly by Britain and France until 1980, is now the independent nation-state of Vanuatu, with a population that is more than 95 percent indigenous. New Zealand, by contrast, is a settler state and former British colony that engages with its entangled Polynesian and British heritage through an ethos of "biculturalism" that is meant to involve an indigenous population of just 15 percent. Alternative notions of property, resources, and heritage—informed by distinct national histories—are emerging in both countries. These property claims are advanced in national and international settings, but they emanate from specific communities and cultural landscapes, and they are grounded in an awareness of ancestral power and inheritance. They reveal intellectual and cultural property to be not only legal constructs but also powerful ways of asserting indigenous identities and sovereignties.

List of Illustrations vii
Preface ix
Acknowledgments xiii
1. Introduction: Culture, Property, Indigeneity 1
2. Mapping the Terrain 25
3. Indigeneity and Law in the Pacific 45
4. Copyright in Context: Carvers, Carvings, and Commodities in Vanuatu 61
5. Trademarking Maori: Aesthetics and Appropriation in Aotearoa New Zealand 89
6. Pacific Museology and Indigenous Property Theory 121
7. Treasured Commodities: Taonga at Auction 151
8. Pig Banks: Imagining the Economy in Vanuatu 175
Conclusion 207
Notes 217
References 249
Index 283

Haidy Geismar is Lecturer in Digital Anthropology and Material Culture at University College London, and Associate Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies at New York University. She is coauthor (with Anita Herle) of Moving Images: John Layard, Fieldwork, and Photography on Malakula since 1914 and Associate Editor of the International Journal of Cultural Property.

"Treasured Possessions is a wonderful achievement of presenting the contemporary entanglements of indigeneity with a range of globalizing cultural forms (copyright, trademark, and cultural property), accounting for these articulations as extending local agencies but not simply a pure culture of a past. Haidy Geismar's mastery of the intricacies of cultural forms and histories not only in Vanuatu but also in New Zealand is impressive, detailed, and provocative. It is undertaken in a clear-eyed fashion that shows indigenization is not a simple thing, a single strand, or even always one-directional, but it is a process constituting new alternatives for thinking about culture in the twenty-first century."—Fred R. Myers, author of Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art

"In this exciting and original study, Haidy Geismar moves us well beyond the stale and stereotypical dichotomies that characterize too many discussions of intellectual property and indigeneity. She scrutinizes the dynamic ways that ongoing explorations of property models for cultural resources promise to transform understandings of polity and sovereignty."—Rosemary J. Coombe, author of The Cultural Life of Intellectual Properties: Authorship, Appropriation, and the Law

“The author seamlessly shows how localized indigenous issues have influenced, if not shaped, national and global legal mandates and policies concerning intellectual and cultural property rights of tangible and intangible resource. . . . Recommended.”

G. R. Campbell

Treasured Possessions is a very welcome and much-needed book, one that really moves anthropological conversations fast-forward in the area of indigenous intellectual and cultural property (ICP)… [It] is a compelling work, and an ideal and stimulating text for a course in the anthropology of intellectual and cultural property.”

Steven Feld
Journal of Anthropological Research

“The rich material and analysis in Treasured Possessions are enough to recommend it, but the book also performs a pedagogical service to anthropology. Geismar assumes no background in intellectual and cultural property issues but manages to draw the reader efficiently into the core contradictions and dilemmas at play, deftly interweaving concrete examples with insights from key figures in the field. . . . Consequently this book may serve as an accessible introduction to anthropological approaches to cultural and intellectual property, as well as an exciting new contribution to that field. It should be useful in courses on native and indigenous studies, museum studies, and the anthropology of law and property theory.”

Kathryn E. Graber
American Anthropologist

" . . . Geismar's attention to provincializing and indigenizing processes shows us how to do so."

Tressa Berman
Museum Anthropology

"A must-read for those working on indigenous intellectual and cultural property rights." 

Anna-Karina Hermkens
Pacific Affairs

"Treasured Possessions is a vital read for scholars and practicioners in the field of cultural and intellectual property, illustrating how global legal regimes are put to use in indigenous discourses. The book’s findings are relevant to indigenous issues, and more generally constitute a counterpart to research on the emergence of global norms and shed light on the interplay between international processes and their implementation in local contexts."

Stefan Groth
Journal of Folklore Research