What to do? Bolivia and the World
The final conversations
in Coroico concerned the future. What should Bolivia do about these issues
in cultural policies
To orient the conversation, the organizers pointed out a discrepancy
in policy between different fields of culture. To explore this point, they posed
the question: what is the difference or the link between knowledge of the
potato seed and the musical knowledge that accompanies potato cultivation? Participants
said that these two types of knowledge went hand in hand. The organizers then
mentioned that the Bolivian state seems to take very different positions in
relation to these two kinds of knowledge. Within the administration’s discourse
of “living well,” and through the new
political constitution that defends food sovereignty and food security, the
government of Evo Morales has assumed an oppositional stance to an article of
the TRIPS Agreement (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property)
that structures the patenting of biological materials such as seeds.
The government position is that those who work the land should be allowed to manage their own knowledge
about the selection and exchange of seeds, without the intervention of private companies
such as Monsanto, an entity that holds patents on specific varieties of seeds. In
this field, Bolivia is saying to the world that some things do not fit within
any framework of intellectual property.
Llallawa, specially selected potatoes that resemble human
form (ayllu Macha) - Photo credit: Henry Stobart
However, in the
field of “culture” and “folklore,” the Bolivian state has taken a different
position, one that fits well with the systems of intellectual property and
cultural heritage as established by industrialized countries. These systems
tend to enclose and overprotect cultural expressions, using the force of the
law, the backing of the state, and institutions such as UNESCO and WIPO. Yet, as had become apparent during the workshop,
many problems about these policies remain unsolved (such as issues of
collective creativity, the extension of copyright terms to the degree that almost
nothing makes it to the public domain, the concerns of indigenous peoples that their
secret and sacred materials not enter the public domain, etc.). Since Bolivia
is living a “process of change,” and since the country has significant
indigenous populations, it could occupy a unique position in the global search
for creative alternatives to the conundrums posed at the junctures of
indigenous peoples and different kinds of knowledge.
Up to this point in the workshop, participants had worked in mixed
groups for the various activities. The organizers thought participants should
engage with people who held very different perspectives from their own, and in
many cases participants worked with other Bolivians whose only point in common
might be a shared official country of citizenship. The objective was not to
reach a consensus among the various perspectives, but rather to facilitate
awareness of other peoples’ perspectives, even if they were ones with which
some participants disagreed. With the third topic, some workshop members
criticized these rather heterogeneous working groups, and proposed groups based
on affinity, in order to move forward with others who shared similar ideas.
organizers acknowledged the importance of both ways of working, and for the final
activity in Coroico, it was agreed that participants would work in affinity
groups. Each group worked with the same questions in self-selected groups. Although
the resulting four working groups cannot be easily categorized, some organized
around regional origin; another formed around a common interest in the transition
of the state, and yet another formed around a common search for alternatives to
existing institutional structures.
Decorated body of Kitarra (ayllu Macha, Northern Potosí). Its sound is said to
promote crop growth. Photo credit: Henry Stobart
Do you believe that the current intellectual property
policies (e.g. Heritage Registration, SOBODAYCOM, SENAPI, WIPO) satisfy the
social and cultural needs of your social environment? Why?
Do you think that these same policies satisfy the social and
cultural needs of Bolivia? Why?
What new alternatives might improve the situation with
regards to cultural politics? To answer, please take into consideration:
- the search for a system that is fairer for everybody,
- the value of creativity,
- the recognition of creative
work, both individual and collective,
- the importance of creativity
to the reproduction of social relations,
- consideration of points of
view that may be distinct, and,
- free access to knowledge.
may involve either legal structures or schemes outside the legal sphere (e.g.
protocols). You are encouraged not only to think in terms of Bolivia, but also
in what might be proposed worldwide.
Each group presented their proposals during
the plenary session, and from these presentations, a document was drafted and
then polished. It includes conclusions, proposals, and questions for the
experts, who would be present for the Round Table in La Paz.
Richard Mújica and Arturo Molina - Photo credit: Phoebe Smolin
Rethinking Creativity, Recognition and Indigenous Heritage by https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/boliviamusicip/home.aspx is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/boliviamusicip/home.aspx