Currently, I teach Intellectual property law in the same city where Chaucer based his famous medieval tales. I would like to think that if there is a defining feature of my work is eclecticism. My doctoral dissertation was on the history of copyright in Latin America in the late nineteenth century (PhD 2009). I was supervised and influenced by Fiona Macmillan and the wonderful postgraduate community at Birkbeck College, London. Since then, I have been- and I am still- interested in many (too many!) things: music, evidence, registration, scrabble, toys, bureaucracy, etc. Because of that variety of interests, I tend to avoid or to push the clear textbook boundaries within the discipline. Ironically, my last publication is however an edited collection of the disciplinary type that, nevertheless, tried to raise historical questions about the subject: Landmark Cases in Intellectual Property (Hart, 2017). In a sense, I guess, what really keeps me researching on this area of law is somehow an uncanny curiosity around questions surrounding (the history of) copying, representation, publicness, imitation, technology and bureaucratic routines. Perhaps the phrase that captured many of these anxieties and that I would have loved to have written myself is the following (….and I am copying here!): “the history of intellectual property can be seen as one of the law attempting to contain and restrict the intangible – to capture the phantom” (Sherman and Bently, The Making of Intellectual Property, CUP, 1999, 59).
What does it mean for PASSIM? For someone like me who prefers the blurring over the drawing of distinctions, PASSIM offers a great opportunity to discuss questions of copyright/patents in a group of excellent researchers and scholars. My individual project is not just an obvious attempt to discuss the regime overlap but also an attempt to reflect on the historical changes affecting the discipline in the twentieth century.
As PI of PASSIM, I’m taking the liberty of opening this new category in the PASSIM blog: a brief presentation of each team member (including then, myself). Currently, I’m Professor of Mediated Culture at Linköping University, Sweden – but I started out in Comparative Literature, defending Global Infatuation—my thesis on Harlequin Enterprises—in 1998. Harlequin was a fascinating topic, and I guess some of the interest I later came to take in intellectual property can be traced back to the branding strategies of the Canadian publisher. But it wasn’t until I came across a speech made by Victor Hugo in 1878 on the need for some sort of international copyright treaty (it materialized as the Berne Convention in 1886) that intellectual property became “my” research field. For almost twenty years now, I’ve been hooked. Some of the focus has shifted, of course. I’ve become less interested in copyright and more interested in patents, research and science – topics I pursued in my latest book Making Marie Curie (Chicago, 2015) and that is now at the center of the PASSIM-project. I’ve never identified myself with a particular discipline, probably because while I have a PhD in Comp Lit, then spent a few years in Library- and Information Science, and now have a professorship in mediated culture (something which basically doesn’t exist as a discipline)…. intellectual property has been the only constant in all of these settings. I’m really looking forward to working with the PASSIM-team and to see what will develop around the project that we have no clue about right now. I remember writing in the ERC-application that “Research projects are not static and predictable units, because if they were they would not be research projects at all.” I’d like to think that I’m an advocate of the peaceful coexistence of structure and serendipity!
What else? There’s a bit more on my website http://www.evahemmungswirten.se but I’m really interested in the political economy of champagne and would love to get a chance to write about champagne as intellectual property. A super-topic, in my mind! Until that day, however, I keep collecting so-called grower champagnes….not a bad way to start future research!
On January 17-18, 2018, I was delighted to welcome the PASSIM team for our kick-off meeting in Norrköping, Sweden. Snow was in the air, but fortunately both flights and trains ran (more or less) according to schedule. A kick-off is a thing to itself: a very important time in the life of a project, an opportunity to discuss, plan ahead and form a group of individuals into a team.
One of the truly fantastic things about the ERC grants is the fact that they run for five years. Five years! It seems almost impossible to be able to work, to read, to discuss, and to write on the topic of your project for such an extended period. An eternity, almost. But time is a funny thing in research. We measure it constantly in our line of work. Nonetheless, the idea of unbounded time is neither realistic, nor desirable.
In fact, one could argue that a five-year project comes alive when you start to talk about and plan around its built-in constraints – the fact that you’ve promised to do certain activities and that these activities, when you start thinking about when you’re supposed to do them, suddenly make unbounded time seem very bounded. And a good thing, too, I suspect.
It’s always been an ambition of mine that I, together with any team members I was working with, would find a way to document the process of working as a team in an interdisciplinary project. I still haven’t quite figured out exactly how to do this, but I remain convinced that the documentation of the way in which we work, talk, disagree and form some sort of community during an extended period is worth studying as a form of self-reflexive exercise in its own right. Maybe this blog is one way of doing precisely that.
Welcome to PASSIM!