Table of Contents

International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage

International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage

Legal and Policy Issues

Edited by Christoph Beat Graber, Karolina Kuprecht and Jessica Christine Lai

The book is unique in taking a multi-faceted approach to cultural heritage, incorporating discussion on tangible and intangible, moveable and immoveable elements of indigenous peoples’ culture. From the perspectives of several international legal fields, including trade law, intellectual property, cultural property, cultural heritage law and human rights, the book explores how indigenous peoples could be empowered to participate more actively in the trade of their cultural heritage without being compelled to renounce important traditional values. The national and local legal realities in four jurisdictions (New Zealand, Australia, United States and Canada) lay the scene for a wide-ranging analysis of various possibilities and proposals on how this might be achieved.

Chapter 3: International indigenous and human rights law in the context of trade in indigenous cultural heritage

John Scott and Federico Lenzerini

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, intellectual property law


In recent decades, the matter of indigenous peoples’ rights has emerged as a priority in the context of the development of international law. The growing attention for the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples has eventually translated into a number of legal instruments, which take into account the cosmologies (visions of life) of the peoples concerned, as well as the specificity of their legal structures and customary laws. This has led to the need to reconsider certain legal concepts, which were traditionally structured on the sole basis of the western point of view and firmly focused on individual rights. Among these concepts, the legal understanding of cultural heritage is included. In fact, in the context of indigenous peoples’ cosmologies, cultural heritage is the bedrock of the identity of the peoples concerned, attaining spiritual and cultural values and going much beyond its usual western-based connotation as a tradeable commodity. This reality translates into a situation where traditional legal parameters, to a large extent, are not able to grasp or take into account the significance and peculiarities of indigenous cultural heritage, especially when it comes to international trade in such heritage.

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