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Cultures of Knowledge: Investigating Intellectual Property Rights and Relations in the Pacific

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Although often presented as inherently normative, Euro-American systems of intellectual property rights (IPRs) law are, like earlier systems of biological classification, best understood as particular, culturally defined systems for codifying knowledge employed to discipline objects, phenomena and social relations. Despite their partiality, such systems have successfully colonised new domains, recently underpinning a new uniform global regime for the protection of IPRs (GATT/WTO TRIPs). In this paper I reveal the central role that global institutions now play in accelerating the universalisation of specific “cultures of regulation”: acting as powerful vectors for the transmission of particular types of knowledge and arbiters of the “normative” bases of global regulatory regimes. Recent empirical evidence from the Pacific illustrates how the TRIPs regime facilitates the commodification and appropriation of intellectual, cultural and biological resources in that region and highlights the development of alternative sui generis systems of IPR protection that challenge the normativity and hegemony of this regime. The article serves as an entry point for further research into the geography of knowledge systems—the way in which the colonisation of certain regulatory systems and forms facilitates the pursuit of particular interests or sustains relations of domination.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2002-09-01

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