WHO OWNS NATIVE CULTURE?
COMMENTS & REVIEWS

  Link to review by Richard A. Shweder in the New York Times Book Review, September 14, 2003, or download pdf of original article.

  Two letters about Who Owns Native Culture? published in the New York Times Book Review (Oct. 5, 2003) and my response.

 On-line review by Adrian Ellis, AEA Consulting, from The Platform 3 (3), January 2004.

 On-line review by Julie Ardery in The Texas Observer, January 16, 2004.

  On-line interview of Michael F. Brown by Marren Sanders, in the Suffolk University Law School Journal of High Technology Law, 2003-2004 (pdf format).

  Review by Dana Neacsu in the New York Law Journal, May 2004.

 Discussion of book by Hans Ingvar Roth, December 2003. It's in Swedish, and I confess I have no idea what it says.

  Review by Jody L. Gray, in College & Research Libraries, American Library Association website, September 2004.

 Review by Paul C. Rosier in the Journal of American History, December 2004 (requires library or personal subscription for access to complete review).

  Review by Michele Grossman in JAS Review of Books/Australian Public Intellectual Network, 2004.

 Review by Stephen B. Brush in Current Anthropology, December 2004 (pdf)

 Two reviews from law journals, 2004
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 Review by Dawn Biddison in the Journal of American Ethnic History, Summer 2004.

 Joint review of WONC? and Karen R. Merrill's Public Lands and Political Meaning: Ranchers, the Government, and the Property Between Them (U Cal. P, 2002) by Carol Rose in the Yale Law Journal 114 (5), March 2005 (29-page pdf file).

  Review by Tyler Cowen in the Journal of Cultural Economics, 28: 317-323, 2004 (pdf).

  Review by Catherine Alexander in the Political and Legal Anthropology Review 27 (2), 2004 (16-page pdf).

  Review by Daniel Thomas Cook in the American Journal of Sociology 110 (6), 2005 (3 page pdf).

 Review by David Trigger in the Australian Journal of Anthropology 16(2), 2005 (3 page pdf).

 Review by Gary Wheeler in Museum Anthropology 28 (2), 2003 (4 page pdf; actual publication date is 2005).

  Review by Patrick J. O'Keefe in the International Journal of Cultural Property 12:114-117, 2005 (pdf).

  Review by Kenneth H. Lokensgard in the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory 7, Winter 2005 (pdf)

 Review by Tom Greaves in the American Indian Culture and Research Journal 29 (1): 144-147, 2005.

  Review by Bernhard Wörrle in Anthropos 101 (1): 257-258, 2006, in German (pdf).

  Review by Luis A. Vivanco in the Journal of Latin American Anthropology 11 (1): 242-244, 2006.

  Extended comment on book by Richard Cox in Records & Information Management Report, February 2004--but posted here in 2006.

  Review by Jason Baird Jackson in the Journal of American Folklore 119, 2006.

Review by Joana de Freitas Lins in cadernos de campo, São Paolo, 2006.

  Review by Angela M. Haas in Computers and Composition 27, 2010.

From Choice, April 2004. Toward the end of his book, Brown (anthropology, Williams College) points to a compelling paradox: "Advocates of the indigenous 'we own our culture' perspective find themselves in the odd position of criticizing corporate capitalism while at the same time espousing capitalism's commodifying logic." Brown documents and discusses the myriad disputes over culture in the US and other societies with indigenous populations. The canvas is broad, encompassing indigenous grievances regarding identity, religion and sacred places, botanical knowledge, and art and representation. This is an excellent guide to conflicting logics and to what occurs when "culture" is transformed from an abstraction into something as apparently tangible and immutable as "heritage." This outstanding book is also a plea for flexibility in civil society and social justice for First Nations. As Brown observes, segregation has never worked, and in our interconnected world (in which indigenous peoples increasingly live mainstream lives), regimes of strict separation hardly furnish a model for the global cultural commons. What is needed are norms and practices that reinforce both pluralism and liberal democratic values. All whose research addresses questions of indigenous rights are urged to read this book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/collections.
                                                                 --O. Pi-Sunyer, U Mass Amherst

From The Vancouver Sun, November 15, 2003.  Column by George Fetherling, "So many books, so little time: In a single week I read about chefs, swords, petroglyphs, and Northrop Frye."

[ . . . ] Tuesday: I learn a good deal from Michael F. Brown's book Who Owns Native Culture? (Harvard University Press, 315 pages, US$29.95). Brown is a U.S. anthropologist who's taken on the unenviable position of mediator. He tries, on philosophical, legal and scholarly grounds, to find a middle path between Aboriginal people who demand the return of their cultural patrimony and whites who, until recently, have considered themselves its custodians and conservators.

To do this, he looks at trends and argument worldwide and takes case studies from four of the "settler democracies": the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Australia.

However great the distance by which it falls short of perfection, Canada comes off well in Brown's study. He looks at the way the Snuneymuxw First Nation secured trademark status for petroglyphs on Gabriola Island to prevent sacrilege and commercial exploitation. That would apparently be more difficult to do in the U.S.

By contrast, some Inuit communities have been less successful at winning official acceptance for the concept of traditional ecological knowledge (called TEK), because some white law- and policymakers consider it too nebulous, too bound up with spiritual matters, for translation into statute, or even case law.

  From the Chronicle of Higher Education, September 12, 2003

In 1997, the Aboriginal painter Johnny Bulun Bulun sued an Australian textile company for copyright infringement of his work. In both a legal and a moral sense, the artist also brought his clan to the courtroom. What was at stake, his lawyers argued, was more than the unauthorized reproduction of the entrancing stripes, swirls, and dots of "Magpie Geese and Waterlilies at the Waterhole." Illicit use, they said, endangered the Ganalbingu clan's relationship to the spirits that inhabited their land. To make that point, a clan leader was registered as a second plaintiff, moving the case beyond a single creator's complaint and asserting the community's equal ownership of the art.

The Bulun Bulun case is just one example of how intellectual-property law is becoming central to the struggles of indigenous peoples, notes Michael F. Brown, author of Who Owns Native Culture? (Harvard University Press). Copyrights, patents, trademarks, and the like are increasingly invoked in efforts to protect cultural heritage, tangible and intangible, from artworks to botanical knowledge. Mr. Brown, a professor of anthropology and Latin American studies at Williams College, uses case studies from the Americas, the Antipodes, and elsewhere to consider what might be a reasonable notion of "cultural privacy" that balances both indigenous and wider interests. For the former, he asks, what are the cultural consequences of emulating the proprietary logic of capitalism? For all of us, he urges the importance of a global cultural and intellectual commons.

Clashes over indigenous heritage have often involved more than objects or knowledge. They have frequently involved space. The author's exploration of conflicts over sacred sites on public lands sheds light on his general approach to cultural disputes: political and indeed politic negotiation. One example he offers deals with Devils Tower National Monument, a 1,267-foot-high monolith in Wyoming. A clash between rock climbers and area Indians who use the site as a place of worship led to an unusual compromise. The National Park Service instituted a moratorium on climbing for the entire month of June. The policy is voluntary, so as not to violate the First Amendment ban on the government's favoring any given religion. But despite rabid opposition by some climbers, it has been a success. Climbing in June is down more than 80 percent from what it was before the policy took effect, in 1996. A partial, provisional fix, Mr. Brown agrees, and no doubt inelegant. But it is a solution, he argues, that offers hope.--Nina C. Ayoub

  From Library Journal, August 2003

To what extent can indigenous peoples protect cultural symbols as a proprietary resource? Brown (anthropology, Williams College; The Channeling Zone: New Age Spirituality in America) explores this complex question as it is emerging through recent legal cases in North America, Mexico, and Australia. He provides numerous examples, from the claim to the Zia symbol by the Pueblo people in New Mexico to sensitive Native American photographs and sound recordings collected in museums and archives. The solutions, Brown suggests, come not through court battles or legal regulations but from locally negotiated compromise between the differing parties. Taken together, the featured court cases make a balanced, accessible contribution to an area of scholarship about which little is written for lay readers. The index (not seen) should be a useful accompaniment to the extensive notes and brief bibliography. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.--Nancy Turner, Syracuse Univ. Lib.