Edited by Sean A. Pager and Adam Candeub
Chapter 14: Balancing Act: The Creation and Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge and Culture Inside and Outside the Legal Frame
Kimberly Christen 14.1 INTRODUCTION The recent development of Web 2.0 technologies grounded in user-generated content and bottom-up exhibition and display modes has produced a dynamic platform for, among other uses, sharing and creating cultural materials. This newly animated digital terrain is not however, without its uneven landscapes and microclimates of management. Indeed, neither a “flat earth” nor a “global village” model work for understanding the diverse circulation routes for, or control over, the flow of information, ideas, and materials as bits and bytes of a new digital landscape that includes overlapping and oftentimes contentious intellectual property rights regimes. This new technological terrain holds significant potential for knowledge production and dissemination, but at the same time there are distinct challenges and pitfalls for indigenous peoples attempting to integrate, adapt, and make anew technological–cultural systems that fit their diverse needs, complex political situations and histories of exclusion, dispossession, and legal disenfranchisement. Existing legal norms are inadequate to address the range of needs and divergent local and national situations of indigenous peoples as they forge new technological relationships that alter the contours of entrenched legal concepts such as property and ownership. Critics and skeptics who point to the essentializing and/or romanticizing nature of some indigenous claims to cultural property, cultural heritage, traditional knowledge (TK), and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs), miss and downplay the differences between Western legal frameworks and indigenous understandings of, relationships with, and obligations to both material objects and their associated knowledge. At the same time, allegations of essentialism discount...
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