GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS, DISPOSSESSED LABOR AND RIGHTS-BASED DEVELOPMENT

GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS, DISPOSSESSED LABOR AND RIGHTS-BASED DEVELOPMENT


“Geographical Indications, Dispossessed Labor and Rights-based Development” (with Ali Malik). Intellectual Property and Human Rights Conference. University of California-Irvine School of Law. October 28, 2016. Click HERE to view the conference webpage.

Conference Paper Abstract: Geographical Indications (GIs) were established as a distinctive category of intellectual property (IP) in the 1994 Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement. Increasingly promoted in the Global South, GIs, or marks indicatingconditions of origin (MICOs) include appellations of source, denominations of origin, collective trademarks and certification marks. Building upon Coombe’s prior work exploring the limitations of MICOs which addresses the racial hierarchies they tend to entrench and the romantic and depoliticising social imaginaries they tend to project, we reiterate the need for greater empirical study of the regulations governing their use and rights-based norms for their governance contextualized within historical forms of dispossession and ongoing political struggles to transform relations of production. We need to investigate the social relations between laborers, landowners, producers, and GI institutions with particular reference to intersecting configurations of race, ethnicity, indigeneity, and the specificities of social movements for decolonisation. Considering Rooibos and Darjeeling teas as cautionary tales of GIs whose governance reflects the prevailing social and ideological tendencies of such systems, we address the potential relevance of revamped MICO systems for acknowledging the labors of place-making, social reproduction and alternative development norms. While recognizing the susceptibility of ‘gourmet’ branding strategies to elite capture, we draw upon utopian decolonizing agroecology and food sovereignty projects from Latin America to illustrate how peasant producers might use such IP vehicles to reverse racial hierarchies, engage in communal labors, incorporate indigenous technologies, and assert new autonomies rooted in pluricultural imaginaries. To what extent and under what conditions might these projects be shaped by, coincide with, or challenge dominant narratives to align with alternative visions of rights-based futures?


Intellectual Property and Human Rights Conference
University of California-Irvine School of Law
October 28, 2016