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Contested Properties

Peoples, Plants and Politics in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Britta Rutert

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Britta Rutert, Contested Properties (2020), transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, ISBN: 9783839447949

Beschreibung / Abstract

This book deals with the values of medicinal plants and associated knowledge(s) in the field of bioprospecting in post-apartheid South Africa. Bioprospecting, the use of genetic or biological resources for commercial purposes, is a profit-oriented enterprise facing new challenges with the rise of human rights and biodiversity politics. This new situation has led to claims for political leverage made by indigenous communities, as well as to claims for national and local cultural identity and heritage. The picture presented here contributes to the widely discussed yet so far unresolved question of how to appropriately share benefits, and how to protect indigenous knowledge in this field.


Britta Rutert, born 1974, works as a research associate at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin. She received her PhD from Free University Berlin in 2016. She is also an ethnographic researcher at the Open African Innovation Research (openAIR) Network.


  • Cover
  • Contents
  • Acronyms and Abbreviations
  • Chapter I
  • Introduction: A Plant Exchangein Thulamahashe
  • Situating the Field: Research Questionsand Contextualization
  • The Crucial Moment: The Disclosureof Knowledge
  • Outline of Chapters
  • Chapter II
  • Introduction
  • The Framework: Multiple Sitesand Temporalities
  • Bioprospecting Assemblages:Method (as) Theory
  • Property and Its Value: A Tricky Match
  • Research Challenges and Resolutions
  • Conclusion and Outlook
  • Chapter III
  • Introduction
  • Bioprospecting Contact Zones:From Past to Present
  • New Contact Zones: South African Biodiversity and Indigenous Politics
  • Ethnography in Bioprospecting Contact Zones
  • Conclusion and Outlook
  • Chapter IV
  • Introduction
  • Topographies of Muthi and Knolwedge
  • Knowledge Transference:Knowledge, Plants and Ancestors
  • Protecting the Value of Knowledge and Muthi
  • Property in Relation: Property, Environment and Community
  • Conclusion and Outlook
  • Chapter V
  • Introduction: “We Go beyondWhat They Know”
  • The Indigenous Knowledge Health System Lead Program
  • From Indigenous Knowledge Systemsto the IKS Laboratory:A Challenging Translation
  • “Deep Science”: The Biochemical Transformation of Muthi
  • Additional Mandates:Educate, Use and Develop
  • Conclusion and Outlook
  • Chapter VI
  • ABC in South Africa: The “Best Case”Hoodia Gordonii
  • ABS: A Stony Path Towards Sharing
  • Science in Distress:Navigating Spurious Inventions
  • ABS – Three Letters for Development?
  • People and Plants in Action
  • Conclusion and Outlook
  • Chapter VII
  • Introduction
  • The Biocultural Community Protocol:Vision and Reality
  • Reorganizing Knowledge Protection:The TK Commons Pool
  • The Pursuit of Integration by Law
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter VIII
  • Introduction
  • Bibliography
  • Additional Websites

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