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Intellectual Property, Citizenship, and American Racial Imaginaries

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Anjali Vats will be delivering the first CREATe Online Public Lecture of the academic year 2021/22. Due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions which remain in place, this event will be hosted online.

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Abstract: The Color of Creatorship: Race, Intellectual Property, and the Making of Americans (Stanford UP, 2020) critically examines the racial histories of intellectual property law, specifically those themes that simultaneously animate copyright, patent, and trademark law over 200 years and mirror the nation’s racist and xenophobic sentiments about citizenship.

It posits that explicit and implicit imaginaries of “true imagination,” “human progress,” and the “consumer gaze” have been repeatedly invoked in ways that entrench racist legal and visual cultures and naturalize racial hierarchies.

This book talk highlights a set of critical race studies methodologies that may be helpful to intellectual property scholars in thinking through how race has historically and contemporaneously operated in the context of intellectual property law. The term “intellectual property citizenship,” which is introduced in the book, calls for reading copyright, patent, and trademark doctrine alongside racial rhetorics of citizenship, in order to understand how the two concepts are mutually constitutive.

In this, the book’s central lens brings Natalia Molina’s ground-breaking conceptualization of “racial scripts” together with Ian Haney Lopez’s landmark discussion of the “racial prerequisite cases” to map remnants of racialization in law over time. Reading intellectual property’s impulses to entrench whiteness as (intellectual) property in familiar and novel archives through the methods proposed here demonstrates the historical and contemporary embeddedness of copyright, patent, and trademark law with larger and continuing struggles of national identity and property rights.


Anjali Vats, JD, PhD is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law with a secondary appointment in the Communication Department at the University of Pittsburgh. She is interested in issues related to race, law, rhetoric, media studies, and popular culture, with particular focus on intellectual property.

This lecture is supported by the Nesta Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC)

**Zoom link details will be provided upon confirmation. Please check your confirmation e-mail which will contain the Zoom link to access the lecture.**

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