Tag Archives: cultural appropriation

cultural appropriation, property rhetoric, acknowledgment

The feminist blogosphere has been erupting lately, showing our strengths and our weaknesses and faultlines. One of those faultlines is race, and the discussions over Amanda Marcotte (of Pandagon)’s work, BrownFemiPower’s work, and cultural appropriation have brought this out.

I’ve stayed quiet thus far on the issue, mostly because I have too many thoughts, and not enough time to do the full book-length essay I want to do and have been futzing about with for several years now.

But, since I am a feminist blogger [in addition to being an information activist blogger], and this issue is on the nose for my interests, I wanted to post something. I’ve been tinkering with a draft for a week or more, but finally scrapped it and wrote this one. And since this post is all about credit where credit is due, I’m going to single out two posts that influenced me and this post:
* Twisty’s recent post on the issue (Schooled, 4/23) helped me think through the need to speak sooner rather than later when I have the perfect statement;
* The Angry Black Woman’s post that she’s not going anywhere –in the missing voices of those who *have* gone away. (ABW Not going anywhere, 4/26). See also ABW On Feminism Part 2, 4/28.)

As Feministe (4/26) said: The question stopped being about plagiarism a long time ago, but that’s what I find myself still responding to; that’s what Amanda continued to respond to. (Well, long ago in blogospheric terms!) I understood this passage to mean that the plagiarism stuff was just the tip of the iceberg that has been revealed and now we’re talking about the whole iceberg, that is, racism and cluelessness in (white) feminism. As to what has replaced the plagiarism/appropriation, I’ve included links at the bottom about one of the issues — the imagery associated with the Marcotte/Seal Press book. But since this blog and my passion is about information and autonomy, it’s the plagiarism / cultural appropriation that I want to deal with (even though it’s “long ago”, as in, days and weeks old).

note: This post is long and rambly and goes a lot of places before it gets to its destination. Be forewarned. (This post was edited & tweaked & updated & corrected for a day or two after initial publication, as is my wont.)

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open content as solution to exploitation of indigenous IP

It’s great to see more info about the rumored the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library — which will publish India’s traditional knowledge:

Indian scientists say the country has been a victim of what they describe as “bio-piracy” for a long time.

“When we put out this encyclopaedia in the public domain, no one will be able to claim that these medicines or therapies are their inventions. Till now, we have not done the needful to protect our traditional wealth,” says Ajay Dua, a senior bureaucrat in the federal commerce ministry.

[I]n most of the developed nations like United States, “prior existing knowledge” is only recognised if it is published in a journal or is available on a database – not if it has been passed down through generations of oral and folk traditions.

The irony here is that India has suffered even though its traditional knowledge, as in China, has been documented extensively.

But information about traditional medicine has never been culled from their texts, translated and put out in the public domain.

A little confusion between “publication” and “public domain” …

No wonder then that India has been embroiled in some high-profile patent litigation in the past decade – the government spent some $6m alone in fighting legal battles against the patenting of turmeric and neem-based medicines.

In 1995, the US Patent Office granted a patent on the wound-healing properties of turmeric.

Indian scientists protested and fought a two-year-long legal battle to get the patent revoked.

Last year, India won a 10-year-long battle at the European Patent Office against a patent granted on an anti-fungal product, derived from neem, by successfully arguing that the medicinal neem tree is part of traditional Indian knowledge.

In 1998 the US Patent Office granted patent to a local company for new strains of rice similar to basmati, which has been grown for centuries in the Himalayan foothills of north-west India and Pakistan and has become popular internationally. After a prolonged legal battle, the patent was revoked four years ago.

The rice patent was new to me. Apparently, we will have to document not just every single preexisting medicinal use, but every single preexisting bit of human knowledge, to prevent companies from trying to enclose human knowledge.

Then they mention the yoga case (now settled favorably for open source yoga advocates):

And, in the US, an expatriate Indian yoga teacher has claimed copyright on a sequence of 36 yoga asanas, or postures.