Research report 2003 - Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Property relations: Open access to land, knowledge and culture?
Sozialistisches und Postsozialistisches Eurasien (Prof. Dr. Christopher Hann)
MPI für ethnologische Forschung, Halle/Saale
SummaryThe research team "Property Relations" of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology has focused primarily on the both economically and socially disappointing outcomes of decollectivisation processes in the postsocialist countryside. In terms of theory, the work moves beyond the dichotomy of private and collective property that has traditionally characterised European concepts of property and continues to play an ideological role. Instead, the group makes use of an analytic model, developed by colleagues in legal anthropology, which brings out the plurality of property arrangements and their multi-functionality. This model proves useful in analysing the property relations of all human societies, including those with "simpler" technologies. It can also be applied in the field of intellectual property, for example when indigenous groups stake claims to unique "cultural property". Recent calls for scientific knowledge to be made available under "open access" raise similar issues: the enunciation of categorical principles of property must always be complemented by careful attention to institutions and practices.