Coordinates of Control: Indigenous Peoples and Knowledges in Bioprospecting Rhetoric
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In this thesis, I draw attention to how representations of indigenous peoples and knowledges in the rhetoric of bioprospecting weave the people into multiple coordinates of discursive control. Bioprospecting, or the exploration of biological resources in search of valuable genetic and chemical material for commercial use, is portrayed by proponents as an ideal project which benefit all of its stakeholders. I challenge such perception by exposing the power relationships underlying bioprospecting proposals as well as the various interests built into their rhetoric. My particular interest lies in exploring the implications for indigenous peoples whose appearances in bioprospecting proposals are less than voluntary. I make three claims: (1) that the representation of indigenous peoples as stewards of the environment is a role assigned to them, which is then circulated and mobilized within the bioprospecting rhetoric in order to support its arguments concerning biodiversity conservation; (2) that indigenous knowledges of the environment, of medicinal plants in particular, are taken out of their original socio-cultural contexts, utilized, appropriated, and valorized by bioprospectors who construct the rhetoric; (3) that the visibility of indigenous peoples and knowledges, which was heightened as a result of the increased interest taken in controlling them, opens up new opportunities for the people to resist misappropriation and struggle for self-definition. In short, this project takes indigenous peoples and knowledges as the intersection of forces and interests comprising an intricate web of power relationships, within which any participant can attempt to empower oneself either by resisting or manipulating the control to which one is exposed.
- Masters Theses