At noon today, Kristen Carpenter, Sonia Katyal, and Angela Riley will present their paper “In Defense of Property,” forthcoming from the Yale Law Journal. This presentation is sponsored by MSU College of Law.
Here is the abstract:
This Article advances a comprehensive theory to explain and defend the emergence of indigenous cultural property claims. In doing so, it offers a vigorous response to an emerging view, in scholarship and popular society, that it is normatively undesirable to employ property law as a means of protecting indigenous culture and ideas. In our view, cultural property critiques arise largely because of the absence of a comprehensive and countervailing theory of indigenous cultural property. To remedy this absence, this Article articulates a robust theory of indigenous property that challenges the individual rights paradigm animating current property law. Specifically, this piece makes two broad contributions to existing property theory. First, it draws on but departs significantly from Margaret Jane Radin’s groundbreaking work linking property and ‘personhood,’ and defends cultural property claims, in contrast, within a paradigm of ‘peoplehood.’ Second, this piece posits that, whereas individual rights are overwhelmingly advanced by property law’s dominant ownership model, the interests of peoples, particularly indigenous peoples, are more appropriately and powerfully effectuated through a theory of property characterized most aptly by stewardship.
As this Article demonstrates, our stewardship paradigm suggests a theory of property that goes far beyond the cultural property context, with implications for property law generally. By introducing a fundamental paradigm shift that locates the metaphorical bundle of rights within non-owners as well as owners, we highlight non-owners’ duties and rights to tangible and intangible goods, even in the absence of title or possession. This Article draws on a wealth of literature from the corporate, environmental, and indigenous contexts to introduce an innovative framework for rethinking ownership altogether. Ultimately, our stewardship theory of property makes a significant contribution to the field, filling an existing void in property theory and adding a much-needed perspective to the ongoing debate over cultural property protections.