Competitive Tradition: Intellectual Property and New Millennial Craft



In 2006, Peru's government awarded an intellectual property (IP) title known as a denomination of origin to the traditional ceramics made by artisans in the northern town of Chulucanas. The move was celebrated by the state as a culturally sensitive strategy for regional development that promised to preserve cultural tradition and heritage and to provide a model for future economic development strategies among other native populations across the country. This study explores the means by which rural and native communities – once framed as economically marginal actors and potential liabilities for the nation-state – are selectively transformed into new agents of cultural innovation under contemporary IP-based development plans. Based on interviews with participants and planners of Chulucanas' IP-based development initiative, this research highlights how local accounts question the state's claims to use IP to pursue a national “export culture” and promote rural producers' global “competitivity” while simultaneously protecting local, collectively held production techniques.