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"In this exciting and original study, Haidy Geismar moves us well beyond the stale and stereotypical dichotomies that characterize too many discussions of intellectual property and indigeneity. She scrutinizes the dynamic ways that ongoing explorations of property models for cultural resources promise to transform understandings of polity and sovereignty."—Rosemary J. Coombe, author of The Cultural Life of Intellectual Properties: Authorship, Appropriation, and the Law
"Treasured Possessions is a wonderful achievement of presenting the contemporary entanglements of indigeneity with a range of globalizing cultural forms (copyright, trademark, and cultural property), accounting for these articulations as extending local agencies but not simply a pure culture of a past. Haidy Geismar's mastery of the intricacies of cultural forms and histories not only in Vanuatu but also in New Zealand is impressive, detailed, and provocative. It is undertaken in a clear-eyed fashion that shows indigenization is not a simple thing, a single strand, or even always one-directional, but it is a process constituting new alternatives for thinking about culture in the twenty-first century."—Fred R. Myers, author of Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art
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What happens when ritual practitioners from a small Pacific nation make an intellectual property claim to bungee jumping? When a German company successfully sues to defend its trademark of a Māori name? Or when UNESCO deems ephemeral sand drawings to be "intangible cultural heritage"? In Treasured Possessions, Haidy Geismar examines how global forms of cultural and intellectual property are being redefined by everyday people and policymakers in two markedly different Pacific nations. The New Hebrides, a small archipelago in Melanesia managed jointly by Britain and France until 1980, is now the independent nation-state of Vanuatu, with a population that is more than 95 percent indigenous. New Zealand, by contrast, is a settler state and former British colony that engages with its entangled Polynesian and British heritage through an ethos of "biculturalism" that is meant to involve an indigenous population of just 15 percent. Alternative notions of property, resources, and heritage—informed by distinct national histories—are emerging in both countries. These property claims are advanced in national and international settings, but they emanate from specific communities and cultural landscapes, and they are grounded in an awareness of ancestral power and inheritance. They reveal intellectual and cultural property to be not only legal constructs but also powerful ways of asserting indigenous identities and sovereignties.