Wed 24 May 2023

Reading Group: Boatema Boateng’s “The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here”



Femke SneltingEva Weinmayr

Reading Group: Boatema Boateng’s “The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here”

We selected Boatema Boateng‘s book “The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here“ for our next session because of its critical approach to the issues arising when a globalized US-based Intellectual Property regime is applied to cultural production in Ghana. Boateng brings perspectives from African Diaspora studies and Critical Race Theory in order to question the way copyright follows the fault lines of nation, gender, and race, to produce and regulate both individual subjects and certain kinds of knowledge.

Intellectual property is based on understandings of the temporal and social contexts of cultural production that are bound up with modernity. These include the liberal concept of the autonomous, rational individual as the basic unit of society and the actions of that individual as distinct from the actions of all others. As a cultural producer, this individual is the essential subject of intellectual property law—the male or masculinized author or inventor whose ability and right to separate his work from all other such work and make proprietary claims over it is a function of his status as a modern subject. This separation is also temporal in demarcating the creative work of the individual from that of not only living authors but also deceased ones. (page 167)

Boatema Boateng is a legal scholar who has been contributing to the Critical Race IP community, a body of work that we have wanted to pay attention to as part of the reading group. While having been mainly developed by scholars in the US context, the understanding that race is a social construct embedded in legal systems and policies, seems crucial to figure out how it then gets embedded in Intellectual Property, especially, of course, in the context of Open Access, appropriation and re-use.

Reading instruction

On May 24 we will read together Conclusion in which Boateng makes a connection to the potential and to the problems of Open Content for the Ghanee context. (PDF,  pp 165–170 and 178–182)

Literature List

Boatema Boateng (2011) “The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here”, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

More cross reading + listening: Critical Race IP 

– ​​​Exploring Critical Race IP. With Dean Deidre Keller and Kimberly Tignor. UCLA Podcast Season 6, Episode 4, 2021, Listen on Soundcloud
– Anjali Vats, Deirdre A. Keller (2018) , Critical Race IP ,  PDF
– Harris, Cheryl (1993) Whiteness as Property, Harvard Law Review, PDF
– Harris, Cheryl (2020) Reflections on Whiteness as Property, Harvard L Review 134 PDF


Femke Snelting

Femke Snelting develops projects at the intersection of publishing, feminisms, and Free Software. In various constellations, she works on re-imagining computational practices to disinvest from technological monoculture and the regime of The Cloud.

With Miriyam Aouragh, Seda Gürses and Helen Pritchard, she runs The Institute for Technology in the Public Interest, a trans-practice and para-academic gathering of activists, artists, engineers and theorists that creates spaces for articulating what computational infrastructures in the “public interest” might be when “public interest” is always in-the-making.

With Jara Rocha, she edited Volumetric Regimes: Material Cultures of Quantified Presence (Open Humanities Press, 2022). The publication results from a collective disobedient research project which interrogated the concrete and at the same time fictional entities of “bodies” in the context of volumetric technologies.

In the research project Ecologies of Dissemination ​​​​​​ she develops, together with Eva Weinmayr, feminist and decolonial approaches to Open Access.

Until 2021, she was responsible for artistic direction of Constant, an association for art and media based in Brussels. Constant generates performative publishing, curatorial processes, poetic software, experimental research and educational prototypes in local and international contexts.

Femke regurlarly teaches at New Performative Practices (Stockholm University of the Arts) and supports artistic research at MERIAN (Maastricht). She also contributes to Nubo, a cooperative which provides locally hosted, Open Source digital services.


Eva Weinmayr

Eva Weinmayr’s collaborative practice is grounded in contemporary art, radical education and institutional analysis. In 2020 she published her doctoral thesis, titled Noun to Verbon a MediaWiki. This research is concerned with the micropolitics of publishing from an intersectional, feminist perspective. (HDK-Valand, University of Gothenburg, SE)

As interims chair of faculty Art and Education at Munich Art Academy (2022-23) she co-initiated together with students kritilab, an open source platform for discrimination-critical teaching in the arts. From 2019 to 22 she co-led the EU-funded collective research and study programme “Teaching to Transgress Toolbox” inspired by US activist, teacher and theorist bell hooks (with erg, Brussels, BE).

As part of Ecologies of Dissemination (HDK-Valand, 2023-24) she is currently Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University (UK). Ecologies of Dissemination​​​​​​, a collaboration with artist Femke Snelting, seeks strategies for dissemination and a politics of re-use that acknowledge the tensions between feminist methodologies, decolonial knowledge practices and principles of Open Access. More specificly, they explore in which way the current drive drive to universal access policies might overlook relational aspects.

Recent artistic research-based projects include “Teaching the Radical Catalog – a Syllabus” (2021-22, with Lucie Kolb), “Library of Inclusions and Omissions” (2016-20), “The Piracy Project” (2010-15, with Andrea Francke), AND Publising (2010-ongoing, with Rosalie Schweiker).