How does your work contribute to re-imagining IP in the twenty first century?
I am interested in tracing institutional forms and systems in global intellectual property legal regimes following earlier periods of decolonization and intensive national identity formation. The current arguably post-Westphalian period—what Sally Engle Merry has described in a slightly different context as spatial global legal pluralism—includes the emergence of new institutional actors and domains, as well as directions of law-making. These include diverse stakeholders such as non-governmental organizations, intersectional regulatory spaces such as patents and public health, and loci of regulatory governance such as cross-border supply chains. Understanding these increasingly embedded and interconnected characteristics of intellectual property can lead to a re-imagining and ultimately reshaping of the relevant regulatory field as global knowledge governance with multiple goals beyond the promotion of creativity and innovation per se.
What are the global opportunities and challenges that emerge at the intersection of critical race and IP?
Interesting and not entirely coincidental symmetries exists between the conceptual tools and normative commitments of critical race theory and those of intellectual property viewed through a global knowledge governance lens. Both areas draw attention to the less privileged among us and both are premised on the project of reducing inequality through human development and local empowerment. But each must also contend with powerfully countervailing movements and structures. One is the domination of multinational corporate interests in relevant policymaking spheres, which then re-inscribes and exacerbates existing power and resource asymmetries. In the global intellectual property space, this is evident in the linkage of intellectual property to trade and investment. Another is the domination of technologies of communication, which facilitate fragmentation and inequality based upon pre-existing cognitive and cultural scripts in the very same spaces that support a semiotic democracy more supportive of human flourishing. So whether from a materialist or constructivist perspective, one must approach the intersection of critical race theory and IP with awareness of these deep, durable, and often illiberal structures.
How do you hope to advance the discourse of race and IP through your work?
The positive spillovers from critical race theory, with its strong origins in critical legal theory, permeate many disciplines other than law. They include important conceptual tools such as anti-essentialism, interest convergence, intersectionality, the critique of liberalism, and the critique of rights. While these robust CRT insights are usually more implicit rather than explicit in my global knowledge governance scholarship, they are omnipresent in all my analyses of intellectual property legal regimes. The study of power circulating throughout individual, institutional, and structural levels is a commonality between critical race theory and global knowledge governance. With the help of the tools of CRT, my hope is that a reconfiguration of intellectual property legal regimes to incorporate their tremendous impact on human development goals can lead to more just global knowledge governance systems.