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
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
"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.”
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
" . . . Geismar's attention to provincializing and indigenizing processes shows us how to do so."
"A must-read for those working on indigenous intellectual and cultural property rights."
"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."
Journal of Folklore Research