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Indigenous People Incorporated?: Culture as Politics, Culture as Property in Pharmaceutical Bioprospecting

Shane Greene
Current Anthropology
Vol. 45, No. 2 (April 2004), pp. 211-237
DOI: 10.1086/381047
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/381047
Page Count: 27
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Indigenous People Incorporated?
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Abstract

The ongoing debate over indigenous claims to intellectual and cultural property reveals a series of indigenous strategies of mobilization that both appropriate from and work against the logic of the market. Of particular significance in this regard are the various indigenous strategies used in contemporary pharmaceutical bioprospecting activities to address claims to traditional medical knowledge as cultural property. This article presents field data on a controversial ethnopharmaceutical project among the Aguaruna of Perus high forest and offers a comparative analysis of the outcomes with attention to several other cases in and beyond South America. In particular, questions are raised about the forms of legitimating authority in the burgeoning international indigenous movement, the role of NGOs, researchers, bureaucracies, and corporations in this process, and the dilemmas that emerge from the politicization and privatization of indigenous culture and identity.

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