Dwijen Rangnekar Obituary

The DFG Research Unit 772 on Cultural Property remembers

Dwijen Rangnekar

(April 17, 1965 – 30 October, 2015)

IMG_5952 In 2010, our Research Group on Cultural Property held a working conference in Hofgeismar, Germany, to prepare the grant for a second three years of research. We had been well advised to invite Dwijen Rangnekar, as we wanted to enlarge our scope and include geographic indications as a further area of emphasis. As I we all came to understand during those days, the Indian local liquor “Feni” was maybe just one, but for him the best example to show the possible merits of geographical indications. Up to this point, the small unit of economists in our interdisciplinary group, had worked on sui generis rights for folklore as well as other intellectual property rights but had not yet focused on geographical indications. Dwijen characterized GI as a possibility to conserve cultural knowledge about food production by granting a regionalized monopoly on producing and labeling specific specialities. We quickly agreed on the many specific faults of the existing GI regime in Europe, but he made a strong case for GIs on an abstract level. While he was open for reforming the system, he was adamant that GIs in itself are a wonderful opportunity to make use of cultural property and bring economic development to regions which are at a disadvantage.

The research group consisted of anthropologists, ethnologists, legal scholars and economists, including agricultural economists. We were (and remain) everything but a consensually driven group, as the number of perspectives on a given problem were rarely smaller than the number of people attending a meeting. Normative positions clashed, methodological issues arose, and frequently academic standards were debated as fiercely as the empirical results from the field. Dwijen listened patiently, asked questions to understand positions and calmed everybody down by telling one or another anecdote or also a joke. During these discussions, Dwijen was a fellow anthropologist to the anthropologists, a fellow economist to the economists and, of course, above all, he was always the legal scholar, fearless of the normative discussion and eager to bring about a better legal system for the people. His ability to think and discuss along the lines of other disciplines was probably what impressed us the most, and in the years to follow, Dwijen constituted the “best guest” you could have in an interdisciplinary endeavor such as our research group on cultural property

We are grateful to have met Dwijen Rangnekar. He inspired us to do more research on geographical indications. He warmed our hearts, and he enlightened our minds. And he described Feni in such colorful and emotional terms that it seemed as if he had also warmed our bellies with it.

Kilian Bizer and the entire cultural property research team

Further obituaries may be found at LASSnet (http://lassnet.blogspot.de/2015/10/dr-dwijen-rangnekar-is-no-more.html) and The Wire (http://thewire.in/2015/11/02/a-scholar-who-made-ipr-relevant-for-local-communities-too-14608/)

Link: Globalization in the Margins Research Network


Link: Globalization in the Margins Research Network – http://fasos-research.nl/heritageandglobalization/welcome/

Globalization phenomena have by now become popular topics of research, often focused on the huge cosmopolitan centers of the world: ‘global cities’ such as London, New York, Paris and Tokyo. Such phenomena, however, also occur in peripheral places – rural areas often seen as sites of ‘authenticity’ and as loci of ‘cultural heritage’, where people use local dialects and practice time-tested customs in almost any aspect of life. Studies in Africa and China, but also in non-metropolitan areas in Western Europe, have shown that even such supposedly pristine and untouched cultural zones are now shot through with the same patterns of dynamic blending and rapid innovation as those observed in the global cities. Dialects are changing quickly into new ones, and cultural practices become commodities offered to global tourism. Yet, these cultural instruments simultaneously remain firmly local as emblems of local authenticity and as continuations of tradition.

Rather than seeing this as an aberration or an exception, we intend to study these seemingly paradoxical processes as a crucial theoretical and methodological challenge, capable of telling us some important things about culture, identity, heritage and globalization in general. That means: we will engage with such phenomena as a way into fundamental questions in folklore, dialectology and culture studies. Thus, we intend to extract the broad theoretical and methodological significance of such seemingly marginal phenomena.