Communication Patterns and Decision-Making about cultural property in the International Forum of the World Intellectual Property Organization

Project Director: Prof. Dr. Regina Bendix (Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology)
Researcher: Dr. des. Stefan Groth (Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology)

Project Abstract

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) established the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) in October of 2000 “as an international forum for debate and dialogue concerning the interplay between intellectual property (IP), and traditional knowledge (TK), genetic resources, and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs)/(folklore).” Its mandate consists in contributing to the establishment of internationally acceptable guidelines in these areas, and within the context of the law on intellectual property. This Committee only exists by virtue of the communication among members who do not share the same origins, language, material culture, or worldviews. This communication utilizes face-to-face meetings as well as virtual and print communication to create a communicative community that means to include if not necessarily represent “the world” and hence to create ‘global’ guidelines for cultural property. The research project focuses on the ICG at WIPO and documents and analyzes the communicative process of constituting cultural property at the international level. At the core stands an analysis based on organizational and communicative ethnography, of the committee meetings that take place twice a year in Geneva. The focus is on the communication regimes that actors develop and employ, be these actors from the WIPO Secretariat, the national delegations, NGOs, indigenous groups or interest groups with observer status. Each of these actors has different motivations and very different levels of knowledge or information. What will also be investigated are the changing dynamics in the different forms of communication during the intervals when the Committee is not meeting, and the extent to which the habitus of WIPO shapes the interaction on the one hand, and the actors and interests, at local to national level, shape it on the other.

  • Stefan Groth (2010): Perspektiven der Differenzierung: Multiple Ausdeutungen von traditionellem Wissen indigener Gemeinschaften in WIPO Verhandlungen. In: Bendix, Regina, Bizer, Kilian, Groth, Stefan eds.: Die Konstituierung von Cultural Property: Forschungsperspektiven. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 2010.
  • Stefan Groth: Tradition und Wert: Die Weltorganisation für Geistiges Eigentum, Cultural Property und die Vorzeitigkeit von Tradition (Tradition and Value: the World Intellectual Property Organization, Cultural Property and the Anteriority of Tradition). In: Kulturen 2/2009, 33-39.
  • Regina Bendix: Wenn viele Felder sich in einem Raum vereinen: Feldforschung in internationalen Gremien. In: Hermann, Elfriede, Klenke, Karin, Dickhardt, Michael eds.: Form, Macht, Differenz. Motive und Felder ethnographischen Forschens. Göttingen, Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 2009, 333-346.
Public Presentations
  • Regina Bendix, Stefan Groth: “Speeding, Stalling, Editing: Maximal Communication for Minimal Results?”, International Symposium of the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Cultural Property, The Constitution of Cultural Property: Interim Conclusions, 15.-17.06.2011 Göttingen, Germany.
  • Stefan Groth: “Metapragmatics on the Global Stage: The Multiplicity of Meaning in International Negotiations”, Workshop on the Anthropology of International Institutions: How Ethnography Contributes to Understanding Mechanisms of Global Governance, LAIOS-EHESS Paris, 10-12 Juni 2010.
  • Stefan Groth: “Language Ideologies and International Institutions: The Case of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Traditional Knowledge”, Department of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz, April 2010.
  • Stefan Groth: “Cultural Property als kulturanthropologisches Forschungsthema“ (Cultural Property as a Field of Research for European Ethnology), Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, 2010 Göttingen.
  • Stefan Groth: “Ideologies in Motion: Language, Power and Performance in International Institutions”, Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), December 2009 Philadelphia.
  • Stefan Groth: “On Tradition and the Politics of Difference”, International Symposium on Cultural Property, Interdisciplinary Research Group on The Constituting of Cultural Property: Actors, Discourses, Contexts, Rules, 12.-15.11.2009 Göttingen, Germany.
  • Stefan Groth: “Tradition und Folklore in der Weltorganisation für Geistiges Eigentum (WIPO) – Eine kommunikationsethnographische Perspektive“ (Tradition and Folklore at the World Intellectual Property Organization – the Perspective of the Ethnography of Communication), Hamburger Gesellschaft für Volkskunde (HGV), 2009 Hamburg.
  • Stefan Groth: “Negotiating Tradition, Representing Social Structure: Culture, Community, and Language in WIPO’s Committee on Traditional Knowledge and Folklore”, International Summer University “Local Knowledge and Open Borders: Creativity and Heritage”, Tartu University, 2009 Tartu.
  • Regina Bendix: One Room, many Fields: Fieldwork in International Institutions. Paper at the Annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Philadelphia, December 2.-6, 2009.
  • Regina Bendix, Stefan Groth: “Stalling & Speeding: Ways of Speaking at WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Cultural Property”, Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), 27.08. 2008 Ljubljana.