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claim as “fabrication.” The legal wrangling that ensued involved environmentalists, feminist organizations, and the Australian government. The bridge was eventually built, but the builder declared bankruptcy, suing the Ngarrindjeri and other bridge opponents. Most recently, another judge, ruling in the bankruptcy case, has reconsidered the secret religious practices and determined that they hadn’t been fabricated after all. This ball of cultural barbed-wire rolls on…. An anthropologist himself, Brown is sensitive to the ironies that cultural disputes inevitably raise. He points out that controversial photographs that missionary H.R. Voth took of Hopi ceremonies around 1900, clearly trespassing against the privacy tenets of Hopi religion, have since been used by tribal elders to reconstruct the Hopi’s cultural past. He also observes that, in the Zapatista uprising, “globalized media served as a counterweight to economic globalization,” focusing intense international criticism on a bioprospecting project in Chiapas \(See “The Professor and the gencies and paradoxes pile halfway to Zuni heaven. Cultural ownershipwhether of Parthenon statues still in the possession of the British Museum or the Zia sun symbol imprinted on New Mexico’s flagis a sprawling topic. Brown doesn’t spell out his reasons for limiting this study to “native” groups \(or say whether such societies possess special this limitation, he’s wrestling with an octopus. The customs and mores of indigenous groups vary enormously, and so do cultural elements themselves. Brown acknowledges “what works for crop genetic resources is probably not the best approach for protecting proprietary interests in indigenous music or ceramics.” So what does work? After 200 pages of examples and hints, Brown concludes that law is too crude an instrument to apply to culture. Especially in cases like the Devils Tower, where multiple ethnic, economic, governmental and hobby groups collide, he finds, “the best one can hope for is an imperfect, negotiated compromise based on common sense and some degree of mutual respect,” an approach he elsewhere refers to as “imaginative realism.” To anyone who has recently issued an invitation requesting a simple “R.S.V.P.,” Brown’s confidence in “common sense” and “mutual respect” will appear stunningly nave. I believe that he hits closer to the mark when he shows that utter dependence on good public relations induces many corporations to back away from legal battles with indigenous groups, who typically command far greater public sympathy. To save face, some companies have brokered ingenious trades: Southwest Airlines, for example, gained the Zia tribe’s consent to use the controversial sun symbol on planes in its fleet and, Brown writes, “gave an undisclosed sum to the tribe scholarship fund.” Brown contends that such not-quitebinding “political” settlements, tailored to the specifics of each circumstance, are better than law at balancing the aims of economic justice and cultural integrity. In legal terms, these two goals can be hard to reconcile. For example, by registering an indigenous insignia as “equivalent to other government symbols” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a tribe protects this element of its cultural heritage, but it simultaneously loses the right to license the insignia for commercial use. This dilemma may explain the Zia tribe’s reluctance to escalate its formal demand of $26 million in reparations from the state of New Mexico into an outright lawsuit over the sun symbol on the flag. Brown and many others shudder at the prospect of shifting decisions over such intimacies as faith and music into the imper sonal, odorless context of a courtroom. “Manyperhaps mostelements of culture do not answer to a logic of possession and control,” he writes. And he’s right. But when conflicts arise, culturelike human reproduction and other intimaciesconfronts questions of justice, and often a court of law is the best place those questions can be fairly considered. Brown expresses special chagrin in the case of a project in Mexico that had been designed to benefit all participants: a pharmaceutical company, ethnobotanical researchers, and the indigenous people whose native plants and cures were under scrutiny. In Brown’s analysis, hard-liners who would not concede Much as we might prefer to settle cul tural differences with sweetgrass and apologies, none of us truly wants to rely on the efficacy of those measures. In most cases, without “the shadow of the law” to suggest them, these concessions aren’t even offered. anything to industry sundered a worthy collaboration, one that had been undertaken in good faith and stood to help indigenous people of the region. Portraying this dispute and several others as cultural stalemates, he adopts a form of resignation. “If the disinterested quality of science is a charade, as critics contend,” he writes, “scientists may as well find industrial partners, especially if those partners agree to meet higher ethical standards.” But it’s not up to anthropology professors to police corporate industry. Distasteful as this bit of realism may be, continued on page 21 1/16/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17 A