Cover image for Who owns native culture?
Who owns native culture?
Brown, Michael F. (Michael Fobes), 1950-
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xii, 315 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
K1401 .B79 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The author proposes alternative strategies for defending the heritage of vulnerable native communities without blocking the open communicatin essential to the life of pluralist democracies. The book is a lively, accessible introduction to questions of cultural ownership, group privacy, intellectual property, and the recovery of indigenous identities.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

To what extent can indigenous peoples protect cultural symbols as a proprietary resource? Brown (anthropology, Williams Coll.; 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., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

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. [Editor's note: The author has a Web site to accompany his book at ] ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels/collections. O. Pi-Sunyer University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Table of Contents

Author's Note
1 The Missionary's Photographs
2 Cultures and Copyrights
3 Sign Wars
4 Ethnobotany Blues
5 Negotiating Mutual Respect
6 At the Edge of the Indigenous
7 Native Heritage in the Iron Cage
8 Finding Justice in the Global Commons
Sources on Indigenous Cultural Rights