Law, Knowledge, Culture
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Law, Knowledge, Culture

The Production of Indigenous Knowledge in Intellectual Property Law

Jane E. Anderson

This informative book investigates how indigenous and traditional knowledge has been produced and positioned within intellectual property law and the effects of this position in both national and international jurisdictions.
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Chapter 5: Study of the Bureaucratic Agenda

Jane E. Anderson


With consideration of the way in which intellectual property law emerged as a unique cultural form, and the making of Aboriginal ‘art’, it is now time to explore the ways in which indigenous knowledge, within an Australian context, came into bureaucratic view as something that needed protection. To this end, I will look initially at the ways in which problems of protecting indigenous knowledge were raised and have subsequently been framed in Australia by governmental efforts in the form of bureaucratic response. What will become evident as I examine the 1981 Report of the Working Party on the Protection of Aboriginal Folklore and secondly the 1994 Stopping the Rip Offs: Intellectual Property Protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, is the profound difficulty of reconciling certain indigenous interests within a legal framework. What follows is an extrapolation of how a dilemma of purpose characterises each governmental incentive, and this dilemma circulates around contested systems of value. In order to transcend such difficulties however, the Reports increasingly turn to the security and logic of the law to uphold and deal with issues that cannot be relegated solely to a legal domain. Enhancing both the legitimacy of the law, and positioning the problem of inappropriate use of indigenous knowledge as a legal problem, the Reports rely on traditionalised interpretations of Aboriginality, leaving contemporary and inter-cultural indigenous exchanges as peripheral ‘problems’. Through the Reports an homogeneity of indigenous experience is reshaped which is, at best, imaginary. Participation by...

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