Commodification of Cultural Heritage

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How can processes of commodification be both harmful and beneficial to people around the world? What tools and strategies can Indigenous communities and scholars use to deal with commodification concerns and opportunities? IPinCH has developed a series of resources to address complex topics such as the role of government and legislation in regulating cultural commodification, whether commodification can benefit disempowered communities, and the impact of treating human remains as commodities, whether in medical science or museums.

Commodification of Inuit Symbols and Potential Protection Mechanisms

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

 

The commodification of Inuit cultural symbols has been increasing. Much of this commodification is derogatory and is misappropriated without permission of the Inuit community. This presentation examines emerging legal norms that may limit the misuse of of such cultural symbols in the future. The findings suggest that these legal approaches can be applied to protect community interests. 

 

 

Violet Ford is an Executive Council Member, Vice-President on International Affairs, Inuit Circumpolar Council.

 

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Local Contexts: Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous Cultural Heritage

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

This presentation introduces Local Contexts, an educational website that includes an introduction to a set of innovative traditional knowledge (TK) license and labels being developed in a response to Indigenous communities' needs. Local Contexts aims to provide a concrete option for Indigenous and local communities to manage their intellectual property rights and interests in documentation, digitization, sharing, and exploitation of their digital cultural heritage according to their own desires and aspirations. The license and label options are intended to cater to the unique needs of Indigenous, local and traditional communities in terms of access and control, based on customary rules, protocols, guidelines and models for appropriate use of cultural heritage materials. Local Contexts is being developed in partnership with WIPO and IPinCH, Murkurtu, the Center for Digital Archaeology and Dr. Jane Anderson.

 

Kimberly Christen Withey is an Associate Professor of English, Associate Director of the Digital Technology and Culture Program, and Director of Digital Projects at the Plateau Center, Native American Projects Office, at Washington State University. She is an IPinCH Associate.

 

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Managing Cultural Commodification from an Indigenous Perspective

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

This presentation draws on examples from New Zealand and the Pacific to describe an Indigenous framework for protecting traditional users and their traditional knowledge. Maui Solomon is a Barrister and Indigenous Peoples Advocate with 22 years legal experience specializing in land and fishing claims, cultural and intellectual property, environmental law and Treaty/Indigenous Peoples Rights issues. Maui is also an IPinCH research team member.

 

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Ookpik: The Ogling Owl at 50

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Fifty years ago the Canadian Government selected Ookpik to represent the country at the 1964 trade fair in Philadelphia. An overnight sensation, the Canadian Government moved quickly to trademark Ookpik for the Fort Chimo Eskimo Co-operative. The Ookpik Advisory Committee oversaw the trademark making decisions regarding books, comics, songs, clothing balloons, and mass-produced dolls. By 1968 the market was saturated and despite the introduction of Sikusi, Ookpik's friend and Mrs Ookpik, revenues fell dramatically. While unsustainable in the long-run, the intentional commodification and heavy marketing of Ookpik, represents an early attempt to create an income stream for and with Inuit.

 

Susan Rowley is the Curator of Public Archaeology at the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology and Associate Professor of Anthropology at UBC. She is also a member of the IPinCH research team.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

The Limits of Cultural Commodification

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

The scale, scope, and kinds of things that can be commoditized are expanding in the global framework of late capitalism. Drawing from Marx' original definition of the commodity, commodification is the process by which objects, events and activities come to be evaluated primarily in terms of their exchange value in the context of trade in addition to any use value that such services, identities, and knowledge all have the potential to be commodified. An acceptable commodity in one culture, may be considered inalienable according to another. This causes serious problems for subaltern groups' whose indigenous legal traditions are not incorporated into dominant policy. This presentation explores the limits of cultural commodification, drawing its arguments from the logic of comparative moral economies. 

 

Alexis Bunten is a Postdoctoral Fellow at SFU and IPinCH Project Ethnographer.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Straddling the Past and the Future: Traditional Art, Contemporary Artists, and Pan-African Cultural Policy

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

This presentation is an initial exploration into the question of how pan-African cultural policies, which have adopted international discourses of heritage protection and cultural diversity, have been implemented in ways that have led to the commodification of "traditional" African art forms. In particular, Nicole is concerned with how a post-colonial emphasis on "heritage" in the newly developing field of cultural policy in Africa generally, and South-Africa in particular, has resulted in a tension between contemporary artists who wish to become participants in the growing global creative industries, and policy strategies that continue to equate "African art" with the informal sector of "traditional" cultural expression. Despite the fact that contemporary artists continue to express African identities and values through their artwork, policy support for integrating these artists into the global arts industry has remained elusive. Nicole explores some of the recent policy critiques being made by local artists and activists and then examine some of the civil society initiatives that are developing as activists attempt draw attention to the specific cultural and economic needs of local artists whether they are "traditional" or not.

 

Nicole Aylwin is a PhD Candidate in Communication and Culture at York University and Academic Coordinator for the York Centre for Public Policy and Law. Nicole is an IPinCH Associate.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Traditional Identity: The Commodification of New Zealand Maori Imagery

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

This presentation explores the story of appropriation, the often-fervent debates it has engendered, and the ensuing negotiations that attempt a responsible and respectful use of imagery by artists, designers and manufacturers.Deidre Brown is a Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture and Planning, the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Deidre is an IPinCH Associate.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Think Before You Appropriate: A Guide for Creators and Designers

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

People and cultures have always exchanged and borrowed ideas from each other to create new forms of art and symbolic expression. Whether intentionally or not, most if not all human creations reflect varied sources of inspiration. Why, then, are some products negatively labelled “cultural appropriation” or their creators accused of disrespecting the very cultures they found inspiring? And why do products inspired from Indigenous cultural heritage seem to spark particularly strong reactions and pushback? This guide unpacks these important questions. It provides advice to designers and marketers on why and how to avoid misappropriation, and underlines the mutual benefits of responsible collaborations with Indigenous artists and communities.

Document type: 
Learning object