See my post about guidelines for today's discussion online.

1. The section "Postmodernity and the rumor" was fascinating. Coombe states that,
"When the recording of corporate signifiers is articulated in the form of rumor, it may be impossible for a manufacturer to stop alien others from speaking its language with their own voices or colonizing its systems of exchange value with their own experiences and life worlds" (p. 145).

My concern is can we assume that by creating zones of ambiguity indigenes can actively resist postcolonial identity politics. Is it at all possible to question and resist the global power nexus?

2. Coombe's intervention in cultural studies and legal scholarship offers an interesting alternative to critical legal studies that tends to counter two dominant models of legal thought. On one side, it questions the law and economics that is the market concept (the invisible hand) to invoke conservative normative requirements, addressing mainly private law and on the other, it critiques rights and principles, the concept of a moral majority to invoke liberal imperatives that addresses mainly public law. Coombe states quite
clearly, that the flow of capital and imperial biopower cannot only be traced in legal code; codification remains open to interpretation, judicial and otherwise. She therefore calls for an ethics of contingency in IP (p. 299). My question is who again determines what is ethical? Is it again not the dominant western world
that determines what is ethical and thereby serves the interest of the dominant West?

3. Coombe in her discussion of Redskins pointed out,
"Whether these commodity/signs are commodifications of their heritage or stereotypical signs of their many peoples find "their own" representations legally owned by others" (p. 185).

Coombe's articulation reminds me of Said's Orientalism (Said, 1978). Is it even feasible to "interrogate the cultural mimicry of alterity" (p. 207) within a neo capitalistic world?
Somava
1/22/2013 12:44:11

Before going to my set of questions I was really looking forward to hear from you all about the discussion regarding the "Objects and Subjects" section.
Drawing from Foucault, he conceptualized that the formation of the subject is constitutive of how he may appear on the other side of a normative division, becoming an object of knowledge. Foucault highlighted the constitution of the subject as an object for himself: the formation of procedures by which the subject is led to observe himself, analyze himself, interpret himself, recognize himself as a domain of possible knowledge (Foucault, Discipline and Punish).

What do you all think of Coombe using Foucault's approach? To me it seems so appropraite for our consumerist lines and mass culture based society. Will the decentered subject help stop dehumanizing indigenous people?
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Lizeth Gutierrez
1/22/2013 17:38:14

That's a good question Somava. Coombe talks about the need to interrogate language in the sociality of the subject, so for me the decentered subject is always relational to the political and cultural contexts in which it finds itself in. I think its important to address how you see the decentered subject because for me I cannot separate it from their relationship to the regimes of power. Therefore, the decentered subject will look different every time and for that reason will conceptualize its positionality to indigenous issues differently. The part that confused me was Coombe's description of the social violence of language, especially when she discusses linguistic socializaion.

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Somava
1/22/2013 14:44:24

Regarding my first question, an article I read recently critiqued Bhabha's "zones of ambivalence" stating that "By creating ‘zones of ambiguity’ in the performing arts, indigenes think through colonial
images of gender and race" (Mageo, 2008, p. 61). Can this be applicable universally to resist the power structure?

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Rachel
1/22/2013 17:27:11

Coombe (1998) also brings up this "seeing one's culture through the colonizer's lens" in another part of the book (although for the life of me I cannot find it right now). Specifically (I think), she talked about the fact that many subaltern cultures are informed about themselves through the lens of their oppressors, which sort of creates this buy-in with the oppressors point of view, even when there is resistance. I feel like this ties into the same conversation I was having over on Tiffany's thread about the dangers of using stereotypical and/or racist trademarks within media as a platform for social awareness. Specifically, I believe there is a real danger in springboarding off of negative images of one's own culture because of the massive risk involved with backlash and creating the exact opposite effect (increased racism and/or subjugation) than the one that was intended. Also, and not to be a fatalist, but I feel like this argument for "thinking through the colonizer" is just another term for tearing down the master's house with the master's tools--- which in my mind has just become a shorthand phrase for the futility of the possibility of change. I think that in order to actually create that resistance to the overarching power structure is going to take more than using the dominant tools on hand, but like Kim has talked about the last two weeks, coming up with solutions that are completely outside the dominant paradigms of law and culture.

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Jorge
1/22/2013 17:09:55

3. Coombe in her discussion of Redskins pointed out,
"Whether these commodity/signs are commodifications of their heritage or stereotypical signs of their many peoples find "their own" representations legally owned by others" (p. 185).
Coombe's articulation reminds me of Said's Orientalism (Said, 1978). Is it even feasible to "interrogate the cultural mimicry of alterity" (p. 207) within a neo capitalistic world?

Hmm, interesting point Somava. I still definitely think it is possible to interrogate cultural imitations of difference, but it in no way will be feasibly As Coombe, and every other read critical social theorists has revealed to me, interrogating structural inequity is never easy. The levels of complicity and dependency within the current structures of neoliberal philosophy are multiple and cyclical. I mean, just thinking about my own role as an instructor of ethnic studies, could one not argue that I am “legally representing” the experiences and narratives of historically marginalized peoples? But what alternative do we have in the neo-capitalistic world?

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Rachel
1/22/2013 17:33:16

2. My question is who again determines what is ethical? Is it again not the dominant western world
that determines what is ethical and thereby serves the interest of the dominant West?

I agree with you Somava. The proclamation for an ethics of contingency without a clear conceptualization of who's ethics we are using feels a bit essentialist. Rather than getting into a discussion about utilitarianism versus Kantian ethics versus deontological ethics, Coombe (1998) seems to inadvertently prove her point that signifiers (in this case, the term "ethics") is contingent upon culturally bound meanings and until exactly what sort of ethics we are supposed to be dealing with is cleared up, the call for a contingency of said ethics could merely be an exercise in intellectual futility.

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Somava
1/22/2013 17:40:46

Good point Rachel. I like the concept of signifier but then how do we navigate the sea of culturally bound meanings. Maybe then considering the aspect of floating signifier, there should be situation based contingency of ethics.

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Rachel
1/22/2013 17:45:48

I agree, and I think that is what Kim was getting at in her post over on her prompt for the contingency of ethics: that we cannot get bogged down in finding the "universal" ethics to use, but rather focus on what that process would look like. As Coombe (1998) states as an overarching thesis, we need to understand the what exactly the consequences are for applying blanket laws to specific instances of IP, copyright and trademarking. Rather than trying to make everything one size fits all, we need to start taking into account the cultures and contexts that are in place at that time. Of course, like Coombe (1998) also points out, this does not mean that we have to reinvent the wheel for every single issue that comes along, but there does have to be some sort of middle ground for these issues.

Somava
1/22/2013 17:35:20

Exactly Jorge, I think this is our role as scholars to speak up and that is what we are doing. Again going back to Foucault, and as Coombe also points out, I feel by decentering the subject, by viewing the subject as a form rather than substance, someone who stands at the intersection of truth we can restitute the speaker, This is because decentering the subject does not nessicitate the destruction of the speaker. And it is that speaker who can assume the role an agent for social change.

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Jen
1/22/2013 17:37:07

I’m responding to Somava’s first question:

“1. The section "Postmodernity and the rumor" was fascinating. Coombe states that, 'When the recording of corporate signifiers is articulated in the form of rumor, it may be impossible for a manufacturer to stop alien others from speaking its language with their own voices or colonizing its systems of exchange value with their own experiences and life worlds' (p. 145). My concern is can we assume that by creating zones of ambiguity indigenes can actively resist postcolonial identity politics. Is it at all possible to question and resist the global power nexus?”

I believe we took up similar question last class, when Dr. Christen asked us to consider alternative non-legal methods of regulating information ownership. She offered the example of the labels that she and her colleagues developed to accommodate community notions of “traditional knowledge.”

I think it is important, as Coombe does in the section on rumor, to examine potential areas where resistance and change is possible. Of course we have to be aware of our limitations, but ultimately I do think that it is possible to “question and resist the global power nexus.” Culture is not static, but can be changed by human agents because it is lived by human agents.

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