Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Columbia University
Intellectual Property and the Knowledge Economy's Global Division of Labor: Producing Green-Technology between Taiwan and China

The worldwide expansion of a Western regime of intellectual property (IP) was one of the most fundamental ingredients in the creation of today's knowledge economy. Because of IP, what previously could not have been said to be owned (such as songs, stories, seed germplasm, and modified DNA), now not only can be owned, but also can be bought, sold, licensed, and stolen. While we often think of these objects of intellectual property as intangible, the majority of us will only ever interact with them through the tangible products within which they are encased-a DVD, mousetrap, or Nike shoe. This project seeks to understand IP itself through an ethnography of innovation in practice. The project will concentrate on interviewing and participant observation fieldwork situated in a Taiwanese green-technology company whose manufacturing is conducted in mainland China. By following the circulation of intangible objects of property (patented, trademarked, or copyrighted) into, out of, and within the company as its product moves from the design to manufacturing stage, this research will shed light on the changing connections between tangible and intangible commodities, the knowledge and manufacturing economies, and China and Taiwan within a global economic system. This anthropological approach to IP builds on a long tradition of anthropological interest in property adding an emphasis on the circulations of objects of intellectual property. It brings to the interdisciplinary conversation about IP a long-term, in-depth, qualitative study of the creation and modification of new intangible objects of property by investigating issues of licensing, transfers, and adaptations of IP within a transnational firm in an industry key to future innovation-driven development.