Welcome to Race + IP ’21, race and intellectual property in crisis.
For this, the third conference on Race + IP, the organizers have chosen a theme appropriate to our current moment. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun observes that “crises are not accidental to a culture focused on safety, they are its raison d’être…each crisis is the motor and the end of control systems; each initially singular emergency is carefully saved, analyzed and codified. More profoundly and less obviously, crises and codes are complementary because they are both central to the emergence of what appears to be the antithesis of both automation and codes: user agency. Codes and crises together produce (the illusion of) mythical and mystical sovereign subjects who weld together norm with reality, word with action. Exceptional crises justify states of exception that undo the traditional democratic separation of executive and legislative branches.” Chun is writing about the Internet but four years of living under the Trump Administration make these same lessons painfully clear, as the boundaries between executive, legislative, and judicial blurred into a politics of white nationalist crisis. Crises justified regulation, usually of the nation’s most vulnerable. In the context of intellectual property, this manifested, among other ways, as the monopolization of medicine and vaccines, at the expense of Brown and Black people in the US and Global South. For our purposes at this conference, race and intellectual property in crisis describes both the functioning, or failure of functioning, of copyright, patent, trade secret, unfair competition, and trademark law during times of crisis as well as those bodies of law in crisis of purpose, ethics, and consequences.
The goal of the conference is two-fold: 1) to continue the conversations of past conferences around race and intellectual property, with focus on articulating the intersections of those areas and their continuing import and 2) explore the ways that intellectual property and race change in crisis, whether in the time of a pandemic, uprising, recession, or other catastrophe. This year’s speakers will attend to the ways that these crises unfold in intellectual property spaces and also how they are distributed unevenly across populations, in the Global North and Global South. This conference also endeavors to deepen engagement with intersectional identities, specifically the implications of sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, and so on in intellectual property. Because of global conditions at the moment, we have chosen an online format. Such a format better serves those who cannot travel or must manage their risk of contracting COVID-19 and offers an opportunity to highlight more scholars, with increasing attentiveness to the work of graduate students, junior faculty, and activists.
Though we are not gathering in the same space, the Race + IP Organizing Committee recognizes that histories of settler colonialism nonetheless mark the lands on which we all live and work. Our recognition reaffirms our commitment to supporting Indigenous rights and expresses our gratitude for all that these lands have provided. We have made a donation to the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) as a meaningful contribution to showing solidarity with Indigenous People across the US. We ask you to consider donating to this or another organization of your choice in order to materially support the project of decolonization.