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emblems, proprietary identity) could be bundled up in the single instance of
Malanggan carvings in New Ireland and their accompanying displays, intro-
duced in Chapter Four.29 The instance would be doubly germane in respect
to the designs worked on the carvings themselves, in that the way these ¬gures
are guarded from unauthorised imitation has compelled observers “ as we
saw “ to use the vocabulary of intellectual property rights. Malanggan ¬gures
would also summarise some of the other features we have found. They recall
the inner and outer bodies of the Murik in that the New Ireland carving is
prototypically regarded as an external body for the departed presence of a
deceased person whose potency is retained within. They echo the emergence
of the Omie child/grandfather, for the sculpture gives an imagistic form to
the name of an ancestor that, detached from the deceased™s body, can then be
passed on to an heir.30 They point to the general difference between a history
of exchanges and current ownership (the carved plane refers to the former and
the painted patterns on it to the latter), and to a consistent orientation toward
the future, in that the designs re¬‚ect anticipated claims for which the recipients
make payments. Above all, the image is owned by, retained in the memory of,
those who have the right to reproduce it.31 But the one issue I wish to bring
forward is K¨ chler™s comment, ˜Melanesia is a particularly clear example of
a culture within which intellectual property is not an analogue of material
property™ (1999: 63). Given the mix of tangible and intangible items here, we
might well ask what she means by that. The answer will open up the question
of whether it is useful, in fact, to think of any of them as intellectual products.
The context of the remark is a discussion (begun by Harrison 1992; 1995)
about the nature of mental resources in Euro-American societies of ˜the mod-
ern industrial economy™, which lay stress on ˜material resources and productive
capacity™ (K¨ chler 1999: 62). The reproduction of mental products is here gov-
erned by a legal system in which intangible efforts have to be embodied in
things for rights to be exercised over them. The contrast is with regimes, as in
Melanesia, which have the kind of approach to the ¬‚ow of information enunci-
ated by Araho. K¨ chler describes intermittent Malanggan performances over
a person™s lifespan as part of ˜a shared knowledge technology [that] assures the
continuing generative and reproductive capacity of its intangible resources™

(1999: 63). She is referring the planned ephemerality of items produced for
display, where (in her words) ownership centres less on the object as a material
product than on the right to project or produce an image out of a repertoire of
soon-to-be absent images. Particularly true of the Malanggan carvings, what
is created to be passed on is not the thing itself (which is destroyed) but ˜an
inherently recallable image™. Her principal point is that the image is created as
a mental resource precisely through the disappearance of the object.
K¨ chler arrives thus at a very speci¬c de¬nition of the mental, rather to
one side of the Euro-American notion of intellectual creation that frequently
informs the related concept of the intangible. My understanding is that the
Malanggan image is indeed created as a resource, but is it a mental one in this
second sense? Her phrase ˜knowledge technology™ is a pointer here.
As a resource it is an entity that can be reproduced again, often a generation
hence, by the way it is recalled. So the knowledge in question is the memory
that holds the image in people™s mind. Another way of putting this would be
to say that knowledge becomes a means to further reproduction (rather than
an end in itself), the image being held in suspension, an outcome of what was
seen in the original display when the rights were acquired or recon¬rmed.
Is the image in this sense inert? The mind (memory) of the holder“owner
houses it as a kind of body part almost; while it may animate the person, the
image as such is not affected by its location. It is perhaps not too extreme
to suggest that being in the mind confers no further attributes or identity
on the image; its mental or intellectual or intangible condition does not add
anything. Although the image that is eventually reproduced will be negotiated
from various anticipated claims on it, the holder“owner is not supposed to
innovate on what he or she recalls. Indeed, that is heavily frowned upon. The
end or aim, I infer, is the eventual reproduction of the memory as an image
that is also a body, not as knowledge.
In other words, there is nothing particularly ˜intellectual™ about the fact
that the image, like the words of a song or the design of an ornament, is a
mental one,32 and there is nothing to be gained in separating out a class of
intellectual property. This also means we might be wary of those contexts
in which knowledge is too easily brought forward as a gloss for intangible
objects. It is at least worth hypothesising that such regimes treat knowledge
practices as a means, literally as practices, not as an end or as objects with
value to circulate.

Ownership of Persons?
Harrison and K¨ chler™s contrast between regimes holds, but we can add a
proviso. Whether or not rights in these Melanesian forms of expression are

treated as material property depends on what is material about property. Recall
that the starting point of the discussion was the Euro-American presumption
that intangible efforts must be embodied in material things for them to be
apprehended as property in the ¬rst place (see Sherman and Bently 1999: 47;
Bainbridge 1999: 45).
I return to the exegesis offered by Davies and Naf¬ne and their interest in
modern renditions of Hegel™s forms of appropriation:

Hegel argues that in becoming a person one must put oneself into the external
world and then reappropriate the self through the appropriation of objects in
the world. Taking the world unto ourselves is our method of completing our
subjectivity and individuality, because it involves the purely subjective person
externalising their personality and re-grasping it in the form of an external object.
Davies and Naf¬ne 2001 : 4; and see Miller 1995

Hence, ˜[p]roperty is seen as an extension of the person and as a means by
which the person can relate freely and transparently with others. Property is
seen to mediate our social relationships™ (Davies & Naf¬ne 2001 : 6). Drawing
in particular on the work of Radin (1993, 1996) for her advocacy of ˜property
for personhood™, Davies and Naf¬ne quote her observation that in order ˜to
achieve proper self-development “ to be a person “ an individual needs some
control over resources in the external environment™ (2001 : 7). The property
that a person uses in their self-construction, they go on to say, is in effect
a relationship to an external thing that contributes to ˜a person™s feelings of
well-being, freedom, and identity™.33
If property relations are part of the way in which people in modern indus-
trial economies (Euro-American, that is) connect to the world, then they must
both shape and take the shape of the way the world is perceived. To the extent
that the world is thought of an assemblage of material things, it follows that
property can only be claimed over material things. Property in this view is the
condition of appropriating things from the world.
It also follows that an idea can only be claimed as an expression of a person™s
exertions and intellect when it is found in a ˜thing™.34 A more generalised
version of this is that any human activity, including bodily exertion, can ¬nd
expression in external things but by being embodied in something else is
expressed in a condensed and abstracted (conceptual) form. For example,
labour manifests an immediate bodily capacity, but what is incorporated in
the products of labour is an abstraction, as when it is theorised (categorised)
as ˜labour power™ in terms of social usefulness. However, there is a special
in¬‚ection to mental activity, for the exercise of the intellect is closely associated
with the exercise of the will, the distinguishing mark, in this Euro-American
world view, of personhood (see Davies and Naf¬ne 2001 : 104). The idea that

must be incorporated in an artefact (thing) before it can be legally owned
renders the mind™s effects as separate from the body™s, exactly as the individual™s
will is given expression and realised in a world separate from him or her. In
short, in this view, inner energy is projected onto the world that returns
evidence of it to its originator, as signs of the person (creative, productive
outcomes of personal activity).
This line of thinking hardly needs further rehearsal. The point to draw from
it is that we are not dealing with a simple contrast between owning things as
material objects and the kind of situation (as described for Melanesia) in
which there is no such restriction of materiality in the ¬‚ow of assets. Rather,
we might see in the Euro-American insistence on intangibles that can only
be owned as embodied in concrete things something of a comparable repro-
ductive moment. What is being reproduced? Minimally, what is reproduced
is the self and its view on the world. This is true over and again. And it ap-
plies equally to that part of the external world that involves other persons;
whatever encounters there are with social others, the reactions they elicit
are absorbed back into the individual as its own feelings and sentiments. In
other words, this (Euro-American) form of materiality is the condition under
which perspective, a person™s point of view, creates an object (out there). We
could conclude that what is material about property relations is a function of
an epistemological grasp of the world, that is, of knowing it as an object (of con-
templation, say). The contrast is with the kind of perspectivism that creates the
If anything like this (Amazonian) perspectivism holds in Melanesia,
perhaps through it we can concomitantly imagine what is material about
the processes of Melanesian reproduction. Perspective becomes an ontologi-
cal way of being that alters the condition of the person (˜creates the subject™)
so that everything in the perceived world (tangible or intangible) de¬nes and
contributes to that state of being.
Now if property, in the sense of the capacity to appropriate, is part of how
Euro-Americans reproduce themselves, so too is knowledge. For what has to
be returned to the self comes both as things for bodily consumption and as
abstract qualities that enhance the equally abstract self, which is exactly where
knowledge belongs. Knowledge of the world is a powerful means of connection
to it (distinction from it). Yet, as we have already seen, for Euro-Americans it is
much more than a means: knowledge about the world is returned to the person
who already knows enough to seek it. Its end in fashioning subjectivity makes
it something of an end in itself. For the mind reappropriates that connection
to the world as intangibles appropriate to how it (the mind) is thought of itself
(as so many thoughts, concepts, percepts, scapes, perspectives, and so forth).
I am, obviously, speaking both culturally and synthetically.

As a consequence, Euro-Americans do value certain things as outcomes of
the intellect. It does matter that there is a mental or intangible dimension to
the products of that body location we think of as the mind. The translation
from idea or effort into material object and back again marks the bound-
aries of the person. The corollary is that one cannot have property in those
generative powers themselves, in the mental processes, because that would
be tantamount to claiming property in persons. In liberal (industrial/Euro-
American) societies, people cannot own other people™s capacities as such (see
Gray 1991 : 299“300 for a different rendering). It is exactly the intangible nature
of their mental processes that protects people from people. Property rights can
only be exercised in relation to things in the world, and intellectual property
can only apply to material objects that re-embody such intangible processes
in things. In these views, creativity is not axiomatically embodied in the body,
but is found either in the mind, on the one hand, or, on the other, in exactly
those things in the world.35
The Melanesian data have pointed to people conceiving of owning what
can also be transmitted and exchanged by virtue of being embodied. That
embodiment is, however, in persons before it is in things (that stand for
relations between persons). Persons are bestowed with human capacities and
regenerative powers, such as the strength or life force that as a name, for
example, becomes redistributable after death. Thus the Malanggan name is
given form as an image that is itself considered to be generative (K¨ chler 1999:
66), in a quasi-procreative sense, and is passed on (transmitted and sold) in the
form of rights to reproduce, to duplicate, the original. But one might wonder
whether in the Melanesian case also it is the right not the potency that is
owned and transmitted. This would be to ignore the lengths to which people
go to turn potency into a visible and appropriatable phenomenon (Demian
2004).36 It would also ignore a crucial difference.
The Melanesian ˜right™ to reproduce is sustained not by a legal apparatus
but by the person being in the appropriate and necessary ontological state to
exercise the right: sister™s son, heir, purchaser, initiate or whatever (Kalinoe
2000). Moreover, the very exercise of the right is an instance of what it confers.
Making duplicates is (to reproduce) the capacity for creation. Euro-Americans,
on the other hand, value the right as having if not legal then moral or ethical
sanction, and it is this value that allows its exercise to the bene¬t of the
holder. The source of creativity is not passed on; that is left intact in the person
of the original author or inventor.37 We come back to the Euro-American
signi¬cance of ˜intellect™. Once embodied in a thing, mental processes can have
further generative force only by being processed freshly (by the originator or
by another) through someone™s mind.

I have been deploying the term used by several writers, property, although
we may ask what is propertied about the kinds of Euro-American ownership
relations being considered here. One answer has to be that the holder of prop-
erty rights and the subject of legal rights run together. The counterpart to the
speci¬c material thing in which efforts are embodied is the concrete person
who can be a bearer of rights. (Rights are intangible before they are realised.)
Personal concreteness is given form through individuality (see Sherman and
Bently 1999 for a different rendering), so we arrive at the further well re-
hearsed point that exclusive interests de¬ne the individual™s sphere of activi-
ties. What is enshrined in the law is emphasised by contingent values that lie
outside it:

Property in things other than oneself has been said to enhance personhood,
because it establishes an extended sphere of non-interference with one™s per-
son. . . . Property and personhood have also been linked in a more intimate man-
ner by the assertion that persons may also be said to have property in themselves.
[Contingently] [c]ommon to both approaches has been a desire to show how
property interests express and secure the autonomy of the individual and hence
their very personhood.
Davies and Naf¬ne 2001 : 6

The arithmetic here “ the singular, recursive character of the origins of a
person™s actions in that very person “ is evident.

Single and Multiple Origins
Davies and Naf¬ne (2001 : 99) observe that the law “ English, Australian,
American, European law “ ˜fails to supply a sensible, credible understanding
of our embodied selves™. The concept of the legal person cannot cope, for
instance, with pregnant women or with the body at death. One of the problems,
I would add, is that it cannot count. (It is not just the law; no one can.) The
reason is evident: it is the body that normally bestows indivisibility on the
person. So the law is baf¬‚ed by a body within a body; it does not know how
many persons a pregnant woman is, and resolution in terms of parts and
wholes pleases no one.38 In short, ˜the possessive legal individual is rendered
incoherent by the cultural and biological facts of reproduction™ (2001 : 92).
Death creates a different problem, which is that the person™s will lives on in
disembodied form (in their testimonies and documents), and its wishes have
to be given a ¬nite life. The law has to kill off this disembodied personality,
an uncanny echo of the way some Melanesians have to kill the (memory
of) the dead through deliberate forgetting, by rendering the deceased absent

(Battaglia 1990). However, there seems a swifter resolution to the number of
persons there now are because with the departure of the rational, sovereign
will from the corpse, the authors argue, lawyers ¬nd little of the person there
and tend to treat the corpse as a thing. But this brings its own anxieties about
others, the deceased™s relatives among them, laying claims to it.
I return to the numbers in a moment. First I note that the possessive in
the ˜possessive individual™ (famously after McPherson 1962) refers to the si-
multaneous condition of being a proprietor and of being property as a result
of having property in oneself, that is, a cultural contingency as far as the
law is concerned. In some views, that property in oneself (self-ownership)
is the guarantee of the freedom with which the will is exercised.39 As noted
at the outset, one philosophical justi¬cation is that insofar as persons own
themselves, no one else can own them. The Melanesian material suggests that
we parse the question about property through a more general question about
embodiment. (Questions about persons and property thereby disappear from
the account.)
Insofar as no one else can own what is self-owned, then, persons must
be embodied either in themselves, that is, their own persons, or in artefacts,
that is, external objects, but not in other persons. (The view that creativity
regarded as a product of the intellect is embodied in the mind rather the body,
rendering the body other to the mind, plays on an internal division of the
person into self and other.) It is embodiment in things of the world that lays
the conditions for property rights and for all the equivocations Davies and
Naf¬ne voice about the way people want to use the language of property rights
for self-embodiment as well.
I have already noted a peculiarity about this Euro-American form of em-
bodiment, that the incorporation of a person™s efforts into things does not
render those things person-like. On the contrary, they are detached from the
generative or creative potential that remains within the person. The person
has produced out of him- or herself an entity that now exists autonomously
in the world as a ˜thing™. If the claims through property are to keep those
things within the person™s orbit, they must rest on a reconceptualisation of
the productive process consonant with the ˜antinomy between objects and
subjects of ownership . . . [meaning that] subjectivity cannot reside in objects,
as such, nor objectivity in subjects, as such™ (Barron 1998: 55). The connec-
tion is simple. The producer is being imagined as the origin of the product.
Conversely, there can be no property claim to a work (the reference is to
copyright) ˜without some author who can be said to originate it™ (1998: 55).
Once imagined thus, there is no need to demonstrate anything more com-
plex. This is the burden of Barron™s explanation of how the Australian courts

ever came to endorse copyright in an ancestral design. All that was necessary
was to show that it was the artist and no one else who refashioned the de-
sign. She writes (1998: 56), ˜in law, originality is simply the description of a
causal relationship between a person and a thing™. It follows, in this view, that
the law is less concerned with establishing the nature of creativity than with
determining whether this or that person can demonstrate that he or she was
the originator. Other claimants may of course be potential ones or exist as
anticipated competitors, but they are the absent multitude against which any
one person asserts originality.
There is no need to repeat the point that Euro-Americans equate sources
of potency with an origin in the person as a singular entity, and the person is
in this respect literally indivisible. It further follows that origins (in the sense
pursued here) cannot be divided. What then do we make of the arithmetic in
the observation that the Australian artist was ˜an individual of several persons™
(Barron 1998: 45, quoting Saunders and Hunter 1991 ). Anthropologically, I
would put it that the Euro-American ˜individual™ is the person in its indivisible,
embodied state, here taken for granted. The several persons correspond to the
different social positions the artist holds. Barron lists them: author of the work
(a legal status), a skilled artist (by reputation), an honoured citizen of Australia
and local hero (acknowledged by the Northern Territory Government who had
purchased his work), a successful entrepreneur (known through his dealings),
as well as an Aboriginal person (whom some felt had desecrated a ritual object)
and a member of a clan (whose ancestors were involved). To his legal status,
then, were added many other possible statuses on which he could act. They
are contingent to the law; nonetheless such positions affect the way the law™s
justice is perceived. This echoes the claims currently being made in relation to
intellectual property rights elsewhere, which is how to acknowledge all those
multiple others who participate in the productive process, except that here the
multiple others are aspects of the one individual. Origins are singular, even
when there are many of them.

Applied Maths
Now the (Euro-American) view on the world that creates the world as ob-
ject and the viewing self as subject generates a problem as far as other per-
sons are concerned: what should be done with everyone else “ how should
they be counted? If that problem is among those still driving the extended
Enlightenment project of ˜making society™, let me comment on a tiny move-
ment within it. Property offers one obvious solution: keep others at bay. There
are two related solutions. The ¬rst is rendering one person as several persons,

as in the case of the artist. The second is sustaining a division between what is
essential and what is contingent, for this allows several persons to be involved
in producing things, and even to seek acknowledgement and reward, without
being co-owners of the primary rights in the thing concerned.
Rendering one person as several persons abstracts or categorises the notion
of person in terms of roles and statuses, and there may be as many of these as
there are social niches. They can be added to over and again. But they do not
add up. A glance at Barron™s list shows that they are not commensurate entities,
that the list is in¬nite (can be broken down into countless parts) and that the
principal form of coherence is the individual™s biography (an embodied life). A
person moves between different domains as different persons; they overlap but
that is all. This is equally true of the claims that are made to acknowledge co-
workers who are not co-owners in a creative process. There may be a division
of labour between all those involved in producing a book “ the publisher, the
binder, the printer and so forth “ but each has competence in his or her own
sphere or domain, which means that he or she can deploy the same skills for
numerous other books as well. In every instance, they add their skills to the
author™s, but the contribution of each remains discrete and recognisable in the
publication, the binding or whatever. A similar additive perception of multiple
workers allows scienti¬c investigators to build on one another™s work so that
they can distinguish the unique efforts of a team of inventors, who may publish
as co-authors, from either the contingent technicians, funders and others
necessary to the outcome or else the work of antecedent or competitive teams
to which the inventors add the essential original input. This arithmetic enables
multiple other persons to be recognised as inhabiting the same world without
compromising anyone™s unique perspective. Everyone has his or her own
unique perspective, that is, is the originator of a singular view, and knowledge
of this fact allows one to be added to another without expectation of closure
or summation.
Another way of putting it is to say that however many others inhabit one™s
world in this Euro-American view, and however many specialised or exclusive
domains there are in which one operates, every pointer of one™s activity points
to oneself. All that can be said is that the perspectives overlap; the signs do not
change. It was one of the discoveries of twentieth century anthropology40 that,
by contrast, in many social regimes people imagine ¬nite worlds in which there
is a kind of division of labour between persons that stresses the dependency of
each person™s status on that of others. A shift of perspective does change the
signs. An extreme example is exempli¬ed in what we have learnt by applying
the insights of Amazonian perspectivism to Papua New Guinean divisions
between persons.

I return to the Melanesian formulation that being a son propels one into a
different world from that one inhabits as a sister™s son. In the world created
between a son and his father, and I take a canonical example in a male voice,
the mother™s brother may be identi¬ed with his sister as a male mother. When
someone instead acts as a sister™s son (toward his mother™s brothers) his own
father is still in that world, he has not disappeared, but the signs have changed.
The values put on the relationship are different. The father now appears (say)
as an in-law to the mother™s brother. The world alters not simply because the
son comes to see his father through different eyes (his mother™s brother™s) but
because the mother™s brother has made a different subject out of him. He is
now the son not of his father but of his mother™s brother™s sister™s husband.
This is hardly an alteration of perspective that the person can will into being.
It is an ontological switch effected through the being and presence of the other
relative.41 One cannot in this situation ˜add™ other persons; new individuals

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