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South Africa's history of diverse traditional medical practices gives rise to an emergent bush ethnomedicine in the Western Cape, where the consumption, trade and sale of herbs are dominated by Rastas. Rastafari, a sociopolitical movement and eco-religion, is combined with Khoisan healing tradition to synthesize an alternative lifestyle to dysfunctional township realities. Bush doctors lead this syncretic movement by gathering knowledge of medicinal plants from community elders. Local plant materials are collected to provide affordable medicines to the disadvantaged. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a third of the estimated 200 bush doctors during 2006–2010. This homogenous group of middle-aged coloured urban males have transformed from gangsters to herbalists with a stated mission “to heal all people.” To the mixed race coloured community, who rejected their Khoisan indigenous ancestry during apartheid, bush medicine reasserts indigenous rights to resources, instills pride in coloured traditions and reclaims positive male roles. Rasta bush doctors employ indigenous healing methods as a method of legitimizing this historically marginalized community. Bush medicine presents a racially equitable socialist platform for health care within the shifting racial milieu in a post-apartheid South Africa.
This paper examines the circulation of cassava germplasm (Manihot esculenta) as a problem in biocultural history. It reviews how the plant was introduced into the Moluccan islands as part of the ‘Columbian exchange’ and how it has subsequently moved around through the distribution of stem cuttings. Using a combination of lexical, ethnographic, botanical and genetic data, including material from ecologically-contrasting field sites, it evaluates the evidence for tracking germplasm movement at the local and regional level, considers the extent to which this contributes to local agrobiological diversity, and reflects upon some methodological problems of integrating sociocultural and scientific evidence.
Birds figure prominently in the traditional knowledge systems of many cultures by virtue of the diverse ways in which humans perceive these creatures, as religious totems, crop pests, food items, sentinels, guides and heralds, to name a few. This preliminary documentation of the traditional ornithological knowledge of the Solega people of southern India discusses the difficulties involved in obtaining a standard set of names that has the consensus of people living in widely dispersed settlements. Solega ways of using bird names in spontaneous speech have implications for theories of ethnobiological nomenclature. A comparison of bird species that are named in Solega, with those that are excluded from their lexicon, challenges some universalist claims concerning ethnotaxonomy. Finally, the ways birds are represented in Solega folklore and traditional ecological knowledge suggest that utilitarian and other cultural concerns, in particular the perceived real or potential interactions between birds and humans, have a significant bearing on Solega bird classification.
The batida, or traditional group hunting, practiced by the Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula provides hunters with wild meat to sustain their families. Our study of batida hunting trips in the Los Petenes community during a 6-month period (2008–2009) provided information on the participants, the practices, and the results. Maya peasant-hunters targeted deer (Odocoileus virginianus, 81%) and peccary (Pecari tajacu, 19%), obtaining on average 2.3 kg of meat per participant. In Los Petenes the batida is open to all adult men who wish to participate within its merit-based hierarchical structure, organized by two hunters recognized for their outstanding abilities. Interview data indicates that in addition to meat, the batida provides its participants with a reinforcement of their cultural identity as Maya peasant-hunters, a sense of belonging to the group and the community, and the chance to gain prestige as hunters. We argue that these social dimensions of the batida, complemented by the practical goal of meat provision, maintain this practice in the community, and very possibly in other communities of Maya heritage.
Fish bones at archaeological sites may be used to address anthropological questions about past fishing practices and trade, as well as biological questions about past species distributions. In both cases, it is important to distinguish fish caught locally from those transported longer distances to the disposal site. The necessary standard of proof may vary by the geographic scale of the study and proximity to fish habitat, but multiple lines of evidence should be brought to bear, such as regional ethnography or oral history, fishing artifacts, available local habitat, skeletal parts frequencies, and bone chemistry. An example from the American Pacific Northwest demonstrates the complexity of determining catch location. The question at the Grissom site was whether the bones could demonstrate past salmonid and other fish occurrence in the adjacent Caribou Creek. Of seven fish species identified, three species were interpreted as local catch, one as local but indicating a change in range, and three as equivocal.
In order to fully understand the importance of responsible environmental management, it is necessary to understand the historical precedents for the visualization of nature and how that aesthetic impacts the way in which environmental policy decisions are made. There are established visual types that feed Western society's perception of what the natural world is, its ‘inherent’ meaning, and how we should interact with the physical space that is associated with the word ‘nature.’ This paper examines these cultural types and contrasts them with applied zooarchaeology. By examining the impact the visual aesthetic of the natural world has on socio-cultural interactions with nature, environmental policy makers can come to new understandings of how culturally prescribed definitions affect the way in which society interacts with the environment. Recent decisions concerning the management of wildlife in and around Yellowstone National Park provide an example of idealized cultural perception of the so-called natural world, the socio-political aesthetic that impacts how we treat and react to the environment. The effective application of paleozoological data in determining species composition for management of the YNP can provide an understanding of environment apart from its value system and change the way in which conservation is shaped and focused.