Dr Dwijen Rangnekar
(17 April 1965 – 30 October 2015)
Warwick Law School is deeply saddened by the death of our colleague, Dwijen Rangnekar, on 30 October 2015 in Delhi, India.
Dwijen Rangnekar was born on 17 April 1965 in Delhi, India. He studied for a BA (Hons) in Economics at Delhi University which he obtained in 1987 and followed this up with a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism from Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan in 1990 and an MA in Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in 1991.
Dwijen came to the UK to study for a PhD in Economics at the School of Economics, Kingston University, London where his thesis on ‘The Role of Economics, Law and Science in Making Plants into Products: A Case Study of Wheat Breeding in the UK’ marked the beginning of his interdisciplinary research into the economic, social, legal and political intersections of intellectual property regimes, food and agriculture.
After obtaining his doctorate in 2000, Dwijen was appointed as a Senior Research Fellow at the University College London (UCL)’s School of Public Policy. In September 2003, Dwijen moved to the University of Warwick as Senior Research Fellow in International Economic Law with the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation (CSGR). At Warwick, he secured the competitive Research Councils UK (RCUK) tenure-track academic fellowship, held jointly with the CSGR and the Warwick Law School, which culminated in Dwijen being appointed as Associate Professor at the Law School in October 2010.
Dwijen was not only a scholar but an activist believing in the power of scholarship to effect social and political change. Dwijen’s scholarship challenged conventional understandings of intellectual property (IP) rights and he was particularly concerned with how these legal rights can impact on development prospects and food security of local communities in the south. Although described by fellow intellectual property legal scholar, Graham Dutfield, Professor of International Governance at the School of Law, Leeds University, as ‘a world authority on geographical indications’ (GIs) whose work remains ‘cited more than anybody on the subject’, Dwijen’s commitment to the scholarship was often driven by altogether more modest and altruistic aims. His unpacking of the complex rules and regimes that made up global IP laws not only questioned the power dynamics that underpinned the international IP rights architecture, he sought to do so in a way that was relevant and real to the communities whose culture and livelihoods are affected by their implementation.
In particular, as Indian legal scholar and public interest lawyer, Lawrence Liang observes, in a ‘lop-sided’ and ‘expansionist’ regime of IP laws which have ‘primarily favoured large corporations over individual creators’, Dwijen’s work ‘demonstrated the rare instances when IP laws could also be used to promote the interest of local communities’ at the same time as cautioning against ‘any naive or romantic idealisation’ of such rights as protection in the context of appropriation by dominant commercial and state interests. In doing so, Lawrence observes that Dwijen possessed a rare skill in being ‘able to bridge the wide world that exists between abstract legal principles and local realities’, that required ‘more than a sharp legal and analytical outlook’, it also required ‘an ethnographic sensibility which is sensitive to the dynamics of the global, national and the local’.
Thus, in spite of his many international accolades – creating, for example, as Graham recalls, ‘an enormously favourable impression’ on a group of United Nations diplomats in Geneva’ at a consultation on GIs– Dwijen remained firmly rooted in the cause of the local or, as Upendra Baxi, Emeritus Professor at Warwick Law School terms them, ‘subaltern communities’. Dwijen was, as Lawrence notes, ‘someone who was able to move between the worlds of international treaties, national legislations and the complex dynamics of power and economics within local communities’. He was just at ease moving among the diplomats and policymakers in Geneva and national capitals as he was downing a pint or two (or three !) with local farmers and producers in India or East Anglia. In essence, Dwijen was a scholar who was not only able to cross intellectual and disciplinary boundaries in his scholarship and policy work but also the cultural and geographical boundaries that can exclude and marginalise the lives of those for whom such research matter.
Dwijen spent a large part of the past decade researching and writing on how geographical indications could be utilised by local producers to protect the production and cultural identities of geographically specific food, including notably feni, liquor produced from cashew nuts and coconut from Goa in India. Path-breaking scholarship aside, Dwijen’s ESRC-funded project on ‘Localising Economic Control through Clubs: Examining the Intellectual Property Protection of Feni in Goa, India’ single-handedly elevated the status of this fringe liquor to legendary prominence among his friends and colleagues. Characteristically critical of the esoteric nature of academic scholarship, Dwijen always accompanied academic discussions on feni with descriptions of its gastronomic merits and demerits, including once accompanying a research seminar on the outcome of his fieldwork in Goa with a feni cocktail tasting session.
Friends and colleagues often joked that Dwijen had cannily successfully combined his love of food, the arts and travel with his day job, sending emails to colleagues trapped in the rainy confines of the British isles from a beach on the Indian Ocean but also never switching off on holidays so that trips to South America for example was accompanied by interest in local chorizo and GIs. He was a great cook and lover of art and music, always enlightening his audience with titbits of information about the provenance of a spice, herb or musical origins of a track, correcting and fine-tuning culinary methods and adorning his home and office with collections of textiles, sculptures and souvenirs from India and all over the world.
For Dwijen, not only was the personal political, the professional was too. He was a tireless campaigner against injustice of all forms. Warwick Law School colleague, Sharifah Sekalala, remembers him as someone ‘who did not only write and philosophised about injustice but one whose life reflected his scholarship’. An active member of the UCU, he fought for colleagues as a departmental representative for many years. He was involved in campaigns against the privatisation and liberalisation agenda of higher education and critically challenged not only what he and many others saw as the managerialist aspects of the RAE/REF-driven research environment but also the Eurocentrism that dominated much of the research and research culture in his field of work and beyond.
Dwijen was also very much committed to furthering links between UK and academia. He was a founding member of the Law and Social Sciences Research Network (Lassnet) which has emerged as an important forum for interdisciplinary research in South Asia and was very much responsible for establishing formal links between Warwick University and JNU.
Dwijen was an immensely meticulous and methodical academic, not letting many ‘pieties to stand in way of source checking and footnoting’ for example, according to Upendra. So much was his dedication to scholarly discipline that he was often the first to find out about digital tools to aid his research and professional organisation. Friend and colleague, Celine Tan, describes Dwijen as the ‘go to expert’ in electronic organisation and recalls him introducing her to a little-known software known as ‘Microsoft Briefcase’ enabling users to synchronise files across different computers, a version of which she still uses today.
Dwijen was similarly meticulous in his teaching. He was a dedicated, scrupulous and committed lecturer, not only in preparing for his lectures and seminars but also in his assessment, devising his own electronic Excel sheet to track and assess marks and constantly reviewing his teaching and assessment methods to ensure consistency and quality control. His students were always at the forefront of his mind and as colleague James Harrison recalls, ‘saw teaching and research as all part of the same academic endeavour’, aspiring always to bring his research to his students.
All this work and professional commitments Dwijen undertook with his characteristic generosity, good nature and mischievous sense of humour. Dwijen always sparkled with life and was always, James recalls, ‘full of stories’. Lassnet Coordinator and Associate Professor at JNU, Pratiksha Baxi, like many of his friends and colleagues, remembers how Dwijen always ‘met life with irresistible charm, infinite celebration and an irascible humour’. Meanwhile, former CSGR Director, Professor Jan Aart Scholte (now at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden), remembers him as ‘most genuine, gentle and empathetic colleague’ who did not care for rank or hierarchical structures, a sentiment shared by all who knew him, colleagues and students alike. Dwijen always had time for his doctoral students and junior colleagues, often advising them to listen to their own voice and instincts in work and in life. Dwijen cared deeply about the people around him and had the knack of making all feel comfortable in their own skin.
When he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, Dwijen faced his illness with same grace, courage and optimism, never losing his wit or the twinkle in his eye, even in the most challenging of times and the ravages of cancer treatment. In updates on his health to friends, he would often joke about his new ‘slim-line figure’, the results of his ‘cancer diet’. He would remind himself and his friends ‘there is more to life than being grim and despairing’ and joke that ‘beyond those couple of reviewers no one is ever going to read that unfinished paper’. Ever jovial, ever optimistic is how those around him would remember him. Dwijen’s kindness, vitality and zest for life were infectious and as Jan Aart expresses it, ‘the breadth and depth of grief among colleagues at his passing says that we wish that Dwijen’s was more the soul of our vocation’.
Dwijen is survived by his mother, Veena, brothers, Dilip and Sharif, sister-in-law, Sonu and nephew, Armaan. Warwick Law School offers his family our deepest condolences. Dwijen is very much missed by all who knew him.
More tributes for Dwijen can be found here:
'Times Higher Education Obituary'
Matthew Reisz for T.H.E.
Why I Don't Think My Brilliant, Free-Spirited Brother Is In A 'Better Place'
Tribute by Sharif Rangnekar, Dwijen's brother
‘A Scholar Who Made IPR Relevant for Local Communities Too’
Lawarence Liang for The Wire
‘Dr Dwijen Rangnekar is No More’
‘In Memory of Dwijen Rangnekar’
Warwick GRP on International Development
‘Dwijen Rangnekar Obituary’
DFG Research Unit 772 on Cultural Property, University of Goettingen, Germany
Warwick UCU Obituary: Dwijen Rangnekar
In Memoriam: Dwijen Rangnekar
If you wish to leave a tribute please click on the comment link below
Special issue: 'Fairness in biodiversity politics and law: Interrogating the Nagoya Protocol (eds. Kleba and Rangnekar), Law, Environment and Development Journal, 2013, 9(2). The editor's introduction is available here.
Supreme Court of India's Judgement on Novartis/Glivec
A series of short articles on the case were published in Economic and Political Weekly 48(32) 10 Aug 2013, with contributions from Carlos Correa, Graham Dutfield, Leena Menghaney, KM Gopakumar, Anand Grover, Amit Sengupta, and Doris Schroeder. Dwijen's introduction is available here and the entire issue is available at the journal's website or downloadable from here.
Essay, 'Novartis firmly in put in place', Hardnews, July 2013.
OpEd 'Calling Big Pharma's Bluff', Hindu, April 3, 2013
Drugs in 3(d): What matters in the Novartis case at the Supreme Court, Kafila, 21 Aug 2012.
Another area of research concerned intellectual property rights in plant genetic resources, and here an article in New Political Economy (or download from here) critically evaluates the political economy of plant breeders' rights in Kenya, by building an argument using Richard Steinberg's thesis that WTO is organised hypocrisy.