The CIPP presents: “Geographical indications in new contexts : The promise, perils and politics of protecting place-based products”

Speaker: Prof. Rosemary Coombe (York University)

Geographical indications (GIs) are increasingly promoted as a means to protect the livelihoods of rural farmers and serve local and indigenous development needs. States, international institutions, NGOs and development agencies advocate the use of GI protections to promote a form of development that will ensure community security and environmental sustainability while safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.

We situate the development of GIs historically and explore the political and economic conditions in which a renewed interest in the use of GIs for rural development and indigenous community aspirations has recently emerged. GIs are promoted through use of a rhetoric that represents a holistic ‘community’ having a singular tradition, deriving from a singular culture, rooted in a singular place, with its own naturally distinctive ecosystem which it stewards as resources for the future.

We call this the ‘social imaginary’ of GI protections and caution against its literalization. While GIs may serve such laudable objectives, positive social outcomes are not guaranteed, nor are benefits from their use necessarily distributed equally. Historically, they have figured in a politics of privileging elites, reifying cultural traditions and legitimating particular power relations. Focusing on numerous examples, we explore the promise and the perils of using GIs to achieve development objectives and urge consideration of a rights-based framework for their implementation.

A lunch and refreshments will be served.

This content has been updated on August 14, 2015 at 8:42.