Call for Papers - Race + IP



Event Date: 

04/20/17 to 04/22/17

Location name: 

Boston, MA

Intellectual property (IP) is an increasingly important site of social, political, and economic struggle. An emerging body of scholarship has begun to consider how IP reflects and reinforces inequalities along lines of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and disability. This body of scholarship examines how knowledge production regimes contribute to local and global economic disparities, dispossession of oppressed peoples, and hierarchies of power.

Race + IP offers an opportunity to explore in depth and in particular the relationship between race and intellectual properties. We seek to create a forum for exploring critical race IP, in all its intersectional investments, with a particular focus on creating an interdisciplinary and inclusive community of scholars, practitioners, activists, artists, and other stakeholders. Though there is a developing body of literature around the area of “critical IP,” critical race IP has thus far been undertheorized. We hope that this conference can offer a forum for highlighting interdisciplinary work at the intersections of race, IP, and critical legal theory.

Broadly considered, critical race IP brings together two strands of scholarship: critical race theory and IP.  Scholarship in critical race IP, which engages a variety of topics and texts, focuses on questions which thematically examine the relationship between race and racial formation and the study of copyrights, trademarks, patents, rights of publicity and trade secrets. Issues such as the trademarking of #BlackLivesMatter, the creation of race-based patents, the deployment of rhetorics of piracy demonstrate that race and IP intersect in important and complex ways. Regardless of their chosen topic of study, Race IP Crits do work which implicates thematic questions such as:

  • What are and should be the aims and goals of the intellectual project of critical race IP?
  • What are the implications of the predominant law and economics frame of theorizing IP?
  • What can we learn by applying critical race theory to IP and intellectual properties, particularly about the nature of the intersections between the management of knowledge and identity?
  • What intersectional questions are implicated by and through the study critical race IP?
  • What methodologies might we use to study critical race IP and what are their implications?
  • How does IP produce racialized subjects and contribute to processes of racial formation?
  • How do legal doctrinal commitments in IP reinforce whiteness and white supremacy in law?
  • How does critical race IP help us connect the struggles of the Global North and Global South?
  • How does knowledge produced in the Global South become articulated in the global economy via international IP regimes (such as TRIPs)?
  • How do IP rights implicate the works of subaltern knowledge makers and knowledge holders (such as indigenous peoples, peasants, and artisans)?
  • What are the links between (de)coloniality and IP?
  • What alternative models of IP can help to combat racialization?
  • How can critical race IP help us understand the relationship between IP and social justice?

In addition to peer reviewed concurrent sessions, the conference will feature five plenary sessions including the following confirmed speakers: Jane Anderson, Michael Birnhack, Margaret Chon, Roopali Mukherjee, Minh-Ha T. Pham, and Madhavi Sunder. The conference will also include lunchtime roundtables on special topics. The topics of the plenary sessions will be:

Critical Race IP: Theories, Aims, Methods

IP and the Racialized Subject

Decentering Piracies

Racing Creativity and the Creative Arts

Reimagining IP

We anticipate having a schedule of plenaries and roundtables is anticipated in August 2016 and schedule of concurrent sessions in January 2017.

For full consideration, please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words of the proposed paper with your name, position, and affiliation to We welcome abstracts from participants at all stages in their careers. Abstracts must be received by September 30, 2016.

Presenters will be expected to circulate completed papers of approximately 8,500 words by March 15, 2017 so that they may be distributed to moderators and panelists. Papers must be original and unpublished (not accepted/under consideration for publication). The best papers will be published in an edited collection which outlines the theoretical investments, aims, methods, and directions of study of critical race IP.

Please feel free to email the organizers with abstracts or questions:

We look forward to seeing you in April 2017!

The Race + IP conference organizing committee:
Anjali Vats, Boston College
Deidre Keller, Ohio Northern University
Jessica Silbey, Northeastern University
Amit Basole, University of Massachusetts, Boston