Thursday 23 May 2024 16.00 CEST (17.00 EEST)

Webex link: https://uoa.webex.com/uoa/j.php?MTID=m3f21799648e906ab753be1e34217e197

Lifeworld, Landscape and Law: From Territoriality to Rights in Knowledge

Graham Dutfield

Professor of International Governance
School of Law, University of Leeds


Safeguarding knowledge is of utmost importance to Indigenous peoples. Wider appreciation of this is reflected in current efforts to adopt an
international treaty on genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. Intellectual property law almost exclusively forms the framing of the discussion on whether and how such knowledge should be extended legal protection. This presentation argues that this framing, given its timing, was probably unavoidable. However, what Indigenous peoples want most is territorial recognition plus control over that which emanates from
that territory, both tangible and intangible. When offered as the only solution, intellectual property rights fall far short, useful as they can
be for certain commercial endeavours.

Ethnobiologists and anthropologists, including those in the forefront of the campaigns for Indigenous peoples’ rights, did much to show us that
certain worldviews and dualities we assume to be real and common sensical, and upon which our laws are steeped, do not reflect reality for many Indigenous peoples. I refer to naturalism, and to the nature v. culture and humans v. rest-of-life divides. From a historical perspective, the
hegemony of the latter suggests that Indigenous peoples since the beginnings of European imperialism have been subjected to little short of
what I refer to – provocatively perhaps – as ontological totalitarianism.

This is so notwithstanding one’s personal adherence to naturalism and to those dualisms, or otherwise. In this presentation, I borrow ‘domesticated
landscape’ from ethnobiology, and ‘lifeworld’, a term that some anthropologists have borrowed from early 20th century philosopher Edmund
Husserl. In doing so, I seek as these scholars do, to open up legal and policy space for immateriality and to re-attach both culture to nature and
humans to the biosphere in pursuit of a world that serves natural justice and treats the global environment as it should.