Researcher biography

Dr. Allison Fish is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research lies at the intersections of law, socio-cultural anthropology, and science and technology studies. The three questions that have directed much of her recent work are: What are the legal forms, technological infrastructures, and cultural logics that shape information/knowledge management practices? How do law and technology function together to mediate access? And How is accessibility increasingly framed as a fundamental human right and critical pathway to social enfranchisement?

To date, the bulk of her independent research has addressed the application of intellectual property law to the regulation of various domains including; international markets for South Asian classical health systems (described in detail below), the development of digital archives and databases designed to function as defensive publications against future patents, the impact of open access on scholarly communication practices, and licensing and attribution practices in open source software communities. Recently, she has begun to undertake research that looks at the way in which legal requirements shape the design and use of technologies at national border ports of entry. Additionally, she has extensive experience working with Native American communities and with health information technologies.

Laying Claim to Yoga: Intellectual Property, Cultural Rights, and the Digital Archive in India This project explores recent developments surrounding a key legal mechanism impacting access to and circulation of valuable knowledge – namely, intellectual and cultural property rights (IPRs). The project addresses the use of IPRs in the globalization and commodification of South Asian traditional health/spiritual systems conjoined in yoga and the ramifications this has for local and international markets, as well as global perceptions for South Asia as a site of creativity and innovation. The project also looks at the role that digital technologies play in protecting traditional knowledge and the impact that this defensive publication and anti-patenting strategy has on local and cultural practices. A key part of the project is a critical discussion of the way that people think about how law and technology interact with one another and how law changes over time to accommodate new objects and shifting attitudes. Specifically, this work challenges the commonly held idea that techno-scientific innovations constantly outpace legal change. I argue that this deterministic account is flawed and problematically frames law as merely a reflective and reactive mechanism that is constantly struggling behind in the wake of socio-technical change. The project is based on ethnographic fieldwork that took place over 24 months in India, California, Hong Kong, and Switzerland.