Protecting Indigenous Knowledge in International Law: Solidarity Beyond Nation State

This article examines the role of colonial nation-state, both as a concept, and as an actor in marginalizing indigenous peoples of the enclave territories, and in empowering colonized peoples in the third world. Part 1 examines the role of the nation-state concept in imposing narrow colonial biases and poor understanding of indigenous peoples. The paper highlights historical context in which the United Nations created a dichotomy in international law‘s treatment of indigenous peoples of the enclave territories (where the settler did not withdraw) and colonised peoples in the third world (where the settler withdrew), resulting in diverging priorities and lost solidarity among colonized peoples. Part 2 contextualizes the United Nations’ policy of accommodating non-state actors in its deliberative processes, and argues that it has enabled indigenous activism and political participation in domestic and international processes thus assisting to forge solidarity among the colonized peoples beyond the nation-state. The final section examines relevant legal developments in the protection of indigenous knowledge, exploring the ongoing negotiation for a knowledge protection system that accommodates indigenous epistemology. The author argues that the focus of the decolonization campaign has shifted from an emphasis on rights to self-determination as an end-state concept toward a negotiated and relational approach to self-determination devoid of an end-state outcome. Knowledge protection is now at the core of indigenous peoples relational approach to self-determination and it provides opportunities for indigenous peoples of both the enclave and non-enclave territories to unite to challenge the organizing framework and colonial relations of power through which the nation-state has served as a site for the suppression of colonized peoples.

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Oguamanam, Chidi, Protecting Indigenous Knowledge in International Law: Solidarity beyond the Nation-State (2004). In C. Dauvergne and W. Wesley Pue eds. Challenging Nation (8 ed) Southwood Press, 2004.

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