The Making and Unmaking of Patent Ownership: Technicalities, Materialities, and Subjectivities [Article]

Laura Foster
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Feminist sociolegal studies have recently taken up the technicalities of doctrines, documents, and regulations to better understand the law. In an affiliated move, feminist science studies turned to the materialities of theories, practices, and nonhuman organisms to make critical sense of science. These methodological turns focus not on gender, per se, but on precise mechanisms of law and science that structure, reinforce, and reconfigure power and inequality. Drawing on these methodological approaches, this article attends to the technicalities and materialities of patent ownership and benefit sharing in South Africa in regards to San peoples’ struggles over the patenting of the Hoodia gordonii plant. An examination of patent documents, benefit-sharing agreements, legislative appendixes, and the biology of plants generates an understanding of how patent ownership, rather than being natural or value-neutral, is a historical and sociocultural process shaping, refashioning, and being inscribed across multiple scales of nation-state jurisdictions, divergent ways of knowing, and biochemical orderings of plants. [indigenous knowledge, Southern Africa, patent law, benefit sharing, feminist studies]

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Foster, Laura A. 2016. "The Making and Unmaking of Patent Ownership: Technicalities, Materialities, and Subjectivities." PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 39 (1):127-143.