The paper focuses on intellectual property (IP), territorialization, and rural development with an emphasis upon marketing food through geographical indications (GIs) in Latin America. Adopting and adapting Polanyi’s theory of the double movement of the commodity, we explore how marks indicating conditions of origin (MICOs) often considered a way of ‘decommodifying’ goods become instead a means of creating, branding and marketing territories. Exploring the geopolitical origins of GI extension under the TRIPs Agreement, the opposition to their inclusion in the TRIPs Agreement and EU transnational efforts to extend their comparative advantage by extending and entrenching these protections in the Global South, we consider how GIs (particularly for food and wine) enable models of rural development to ‘travel,’ if never fully to translate.

This territorial development strategy simultaneously created new markets for European development expertise. Focusing upon heritage foods, for example, the EU impressed upon Latin American countries and communities the need to essentialize their socionatural resources, appreciate their terroir, and make newfound territories legible for investment, tourist infrastructure and export markets. In the face of these new territorialisations, however, small producer groups (often, ironically, aided by European NGOs with rights-based orientations), often resisted adopted and adapted new MICOS, not to fetishize fixed territorial attributes, but to mark goods derived from the intimacies of biocultural resources and economic resilience in marginalized areas. Local traditions of adaptation thus became meaningful places asserted in the double movement of an already doubled commodity. 


Rosemary J. Coombe, TC Beirne Visiting Fellow, 2018
Tier One Canada Research Chair in Law, Communication and Culture, York University, 2001-2022

Paper coauthored with Kate L. Turner.

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