Call for Papers: Intellectual Property as Cultural Technology, Fourth Annual Workshop of the International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property (ISHTIP)
London School of Economics
25-26 June 2012
Intellectual property rights are generally supposed to function as means of stimulating and diffusing cultural production. This instrumentalist understanding of how intellectual property works as a cultural technology has survived for more than two centuries; it has been amplified and refined by a long tradition of economic analysis and economic history, and it has now been retrenched as the basic premise of contemporary debates about public domains, digital commons, and the expansion of corporate semiotic power. How plausible or illuminating is this pervasive representation of the agency of intellectual property rights’
There are some familiar ways of testing this representation. Lawyers and economists ask whether patent laws work as they should in the domains of, for example, software or biomedical innovation, they speculate as to the reasons why creativity in the fashion industry seems to flourish in a ‘negative space’ (a domain unframed by copyright law), and they ask how formal intellectual property rights work with ‘social norms’. But these lines of inquiry still reduce culture to what can be rendered in terms of scarcity, efficiency, and instrumentality.
The theme of this workshop seeks to elicit alternative approaches to the cultural implications of intellectual property and cultural property laws. A rubric that turns on the terms ‘culture’ and ‘technology’ can only be open-ended, but the following questions might be taken as a rough starting point for reflection:
(1) How might we understand the implication of different forms of intellectual or cultural property in economic, political, aesthetic, or scientific cultures’ How might we schematize the ‘functions’ or ‘effects’ of intellectual property law in terms other than those of instrumentality, efficiency, or repressive power’
(2) Do intellectual property regimes themselves have specific cultures’ Here, ethnographic, historical, or sociological analyses might reveal the specific practices, techniques and media that condition the existence and effects of intellectual property forms.
(3) Might we understand intellectual property as a mode of cultural creativity in its own right’ Intellectual property law has evolved a complex set of fictions, semantic artifacts, themes, and figures that have an existence in broader cultural life, not just as agents of encouragement or constraint, but as conceptual resources that have shaped the discursive fields of various social cultures. Somewhat more abstractly, regimes of intellectual property have turned the improbable notion of ‘intangible property’, or of ‘intangible things’, into common currency. So, instead of seeing legal forms as secondary ratifications of cultural figures, might we instead explore intellectual property law’s own cultural intelligence and authorship’
We invite contributions from established and doctoral scholars working in the broad field of the humanities and the social sciences, including anthropology, economic history, history of science, media studies, literary theory, science studies, and critical theory, as well as legal history and legal theory.
Papers selected for presentation at the workshop will be circulated in advance to registered participants. A maximum length of 9,000 words is recommended. Abstracts of proposed papers (together with a brief author bio) should be submitted by *1 March 2012*.
*Submission of proposal (abstract and bio): *1 March 2012
*Notification of acceptance: *31 March 2012
*Submission of paper: *1 June 2012
*Workshop: *25-26 June 2012
*For information and program updates visit the ISHTIP website at:
Please also visit the 2012 LSE workshop website at:
Abstracts and author bios can be submitted to any of the following for circulation among the Program Committee: