Wednesday, September 22 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Meredith Hall—Properties of Color: How Corporations Came to Own the Visible Spectrum
Is it possible for a corporation to own a color? This study shows the surprising answer to be yes as it traces color’s assimilation into the intellectual property regime over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Beginning with the invention of synthetic dye production during the Second Industrial Revolution and concluding with the U.S. Supreme Court decision permitting single color trademarks in 1995, the work examines the “properties” color has at different times and for different groups of people and how these properties were turned into property. The project also introduces the sociological concept of “propertization”—the social process by which unowned things are transformed into property for the first time—as a form of economic accumulation transacted through moral justification rather than market exchange. Applying this conceptual framework to disputes in elementary-school classrooms, industrial chemical laboratories, artists’ studios, WWI battlefields, the floor of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the odd Chicago-area dry cleaner, the comparative historical analysis maps the different ways that color became enmeshed in institutional regimes of valuation and appropriation—whether as a matter of cultural significance, aesthetic taste, or the manufacture, marketing, and pricing of goods.
Meredith Hall is a 2021-23 Postdoctoral Fellow in the USC Society of Fellows in the Humanities
Meredith Hall comes to USC from the New School for Social Research, where she completed her PhD in Sociology in 2021. Her research examines the moral logics of the intellectual property regime, in particular the changing definitions and rewards of creativity in the scientific and cultural industries.
Meeting ID: 944 2303 1717 Passcode: 589408