(April 17, 1965 – 30 October, 2015)
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.
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/)