International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage
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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.
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Chapter 1: Stimulating trade and development of indigenous cultural heritage by means of international law: issues of legitimacy and method

Christoph B. Graber


Under the effects of economic globalisation and the Internet, international trade in traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCE) is gaining magnitude, and a debate about the law’s role in protecting indigenous cultural heritage (ICH) seems more necessary than ever. So far, the dominant attitude in this debate has been a defensive one. Scholars backed by prominent indigenous brokers have been arguing for some decades that the international legal order should work out efficient defences against flagrant misappropriation of ICH. The international restitution of stolen or illegally exported indigenous cultural property indeed leaves a lot to be desired and the existing intellectual property (IP) regime does not provide effective remedies against misappropriation of TK and TCE. Although these concerns need to be addressed, I think that the debate should not stop there. Instead, I suggest a shift from a defensive attitude to a proactive strategy and to study whether international trade in ICH could promote social and economic development of indigenous peoples and how the law could contribute to this aim.

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