Dwelling in the roots
Elsa Ósk Alfreðsdóttir (University of Iceland)
Paper short abstract:
I will discuss how a traditional herbalist family in Iceland, has renewed their identity and ideas about their traditions as a response to an outside threat of societical changes in how we constitute accepted forms of knowledge and scientific understanding.
Paper long abstract:
In recent decades there has been an increasing numbers of herbalists in Iceland, which have received their education from official, academic institutions abroad, have a bechelors degree and associates themselves with science. But what influence does it have on the indigenous people who have practiced their knowledge their whole life, as it has been through generations back? In this paper I will discuss how members of a single herbalist family, descendants of some of the most famous herbal medicine doctors in Iceland, has renewed their identity and ideas about their traditions as a response to an outside threat of the academically qualified herbalists, as well as societical changes in how we constitute accepted forms of knowledge and scientific understanding. They felt the need to redefine themselves as embodiment of cultural heritage, align themselves with the Native Americans and think they should be protected like them. Through narratives they establish "us and them" mentality, aspects of ownership and past presencing. This shift has strengthen this herbalist family in dwelling "at home" in nostalgic and somewhat heroic story-telling of their ancestors and they religiously believe that they are communicating with these ancestors through dreams and practice.