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The Ethnobotany of Eden: The Colonial Quest for Green Gold in the Humid Tropics

The colonial era witnessed a fevered quest for the healing flora of the equatorial latitudes. Subscribing to ancient Eden notions of plant-people relations, European physicians and scientists were motivated by the belief that God had planted botanical cures for diseases in their places of origin. While many colonial bioprospectors subscribed to the biblical Doctrine of Signatures, they discovered early that indigenous tropical folk represented reservoirs of medicinal plant knowledge. Assuming that native knowhow constituted more instinct than intelligence, Europeans employed bribes, torture, and, in the cases of enslaved Africans, promises of freedom to extract their ethnomedical secrets. In the case of especially lucrative healing plants, imperial and colonial entities conspired to pilfer and naturalize endemic species in their distant colonies. This legacy of inappropriate exploitation of native peoples and tropical plants during the colonial era continues to cast a shadow over ethnobotanical inquiry.

Speaker: Robert Voeks, CSU Fullerton

Friday, 02/08/19


Website: Click to Visit


$12 General, $10 Members

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UC Botanical Garden

200 Centennial Drive
Berkeley, CA 94720

Phone: 510-643-2755
Website: Click to Visit