An ambiguous position: traditional knowledge, economic exploitation and research 
Michele Fontefrancesco (University of Gastronomic Sciences)
Andrea Pieroni (University of Gastronomic Sciences)
Sackler B
Start time:
10 June, 2012 at 9:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

TK is often considered a precious local heritage to be preserved, and a resource to be commodified for local development. In front of this dynamic, this panel aims at reflecting about meanings and aims of TK studies in this ambiguous context.

Long Abstract

The public and academic debate is increasingly interested in Traditional Knowledge [TK], and this became the fulcrum of complex cultural and economic dynamics that see in the bio-cultural heritage a resource for possible local development. During the last decades Ethnobiology and Anthropology have undertaken an intense work mainly aimed to record and (re)-evaluate TK. This effort has produced many research outputs and it has also activated many political and cultural initiatives, both at the local and global level.

However, the globalisation processes and the different perceptions within the societies of the values embedded in TK are generating also contradictory trajectories: local communities enthusiastically refer to "traditions" as models for local development -often (re)inventing traditions on the basis of contemporary understanding of rural ways of life; at the same time, these communities seem also to be fascinated in "modernity", and direct their development towards a model of urban consumerist lifestyles. In this context, TK appears at the same time a fundamental aspect of the "local" that must be preserved intact, and a powerful economic resource that must be marketed to allow local development.

In this process, the researches originally aimed at collecting and preserving TK have become resources for its commoditization, betraying the original motivations and casting researchers into an ambiguous ethical position.

This panel would like to address these phenomena in order to foster down-to-the-earth approaches in applied environmental anthropological studies and reflections beyond the academia about meaning and possibility for TK studies in this context of exploitation of traditions.

Accepted papers: