African Traditional Pharmaceuticals: knowledge, markets, museum.
Pino Schirripa (Sapienza - University of Rome)
Paper short abstract:
In the last three decades the status of traditional pharmaceuticals has changed. They are now available on the markets and even in the pharmacies. At the same time traditional medicine has become part of the cultural heritage. The paper intends to explore this two new dimensions.
Paper long abstract:
In the last three decades the status of traditional pharmaceuticals has changed. Following for many extents a pattern already experienced in some Asian countries (e. g. China, India), in diverse African countries the traditional pharmaceuticals have gained a new room. Due to the politics of legitimation of traditional medicine, mainly in the '80s and '90s, and also to the attempts to re-create African identities grounded on a new usages of traditional cultural elements, their circulation is not limited anymore to a simple exchange between healers and clients. Traditional pharmaceuticals are now available on the markets and even in the drug-shops and pharmacies. New factories have been established to process traditional pharmaceuticals in a quasi-industrial way. Their forms and packagings recall those of biomedical drugs. As other spheres of traditional culture, pharmaceuticals are now something marketable. This implies new social dynamics that must be analyzed. At the same time traditional medicine has become part of the cultural heritage. As such, it founds a room in museums and exhibitions. It is part of a larger cultural heritage and identitarian claim project. When it is stored and exhibited in museums it becomes also a specific cultural commodity, whose meanings need to be investigated . The paper intends to explore the two new dimensions of the traditional pharmaceuticals outlined above.
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