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Communications Journalism Media

The Color of Creatorship: Intellectual Property, Race and the Making of Americans

October 3, 2019 at 7:00pm8:00pm EDT

Life Sciences Complex, 105

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About Anjali Vats

Anjali Vats is an assistant professor in Communication and African and African Diaspora Studies at Boston College. She is also assistant professor (by courtesy) in the Boston College. She also serves as a visiting consultant with Microsoft Research New England’s Social Media Collective as well. Her works draws on methods in rhetoric, media studies, and critical race studies. She is particularly interested in issues of race, law, and popular culture, with particular focus on the racial histories intellectual properties. She was previously a faculty member in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University. She has published articles in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, and Communication, Culture & Critique. Her book The Color of Creatorship: Intellectual Property, Race, and the Making of Americans is due out in January 2020.


Vats’ book talk explores the historical relationships between copyright, trademark, and patent law as they are linked to articulations of (white) American citizenship. Drawing on interdisciplinary methods, it contends that though race, intellectual property, and citizenship are no longer linked through formal exclusion, they continue to be intertwined through the legally inflected language of “true imagination,” “human progress,” and the “consumer gaze.” These three concepts, which animate copyright, patent, and trademark law respectively, have operated for over 200 years to mark “good intellectual property citizens” and “bad intellectual property citizens” in racial terms. Through the invocation of familiar racial scripts, creators are marked as capable or incapable of producing new and innovative knowledge. By marking periods of citizen creatorship, race liberal creatorship, and postracial creatorship, the talk shows, through high profile controversies over rap and hip hop, life-saving pharmaceuticals, and traditional knowledge, among others, how race and property law continue to be racially exclusionary categories, not colorblind ones.

Hosted by the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies.

This event was published on September 13, 2019.

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