How might we begin to understand biodiversity as the condition for human flourishing? What is the relationship between our desire to use natural products, as consumers, and the long-term sustainability of these natural resources themselves? What is the place of traditional and indigenous knowledge within both the global and public health agenda and pharmaceutical medicine? This course brings together a range of insights from diverse disciplinary and industry vantage points, to consider the relationship between human flourishing and plant biodiversity. Engaging with the medical sciences, medical anthropology, ethnobotany and the anthropology of nature and the environment, this school uses case studies to consider macro and micro perspectives that reflect on both individual responsibility and that of institutions, within the global political economy.
Exploring the internal and external microcosm of the human biome, as a phenomenon and lens through which to witness our complex entanglement, Colin Bennett invites us to consider our place within the eco-system of the living Planet. He considers our appetite and preparedness to engage with natural products and traditional remedies and the conditions necessary for affordable and accessible medicines. Habitat loss within the Anthropocene frames Sarah Edwards talk to explore the global demand in raw – but wild harvested – natural products. Exploring the ethical, moral and legal challenges surrounding the commodification of medicinal plants, she considers both classical pharmaceutical drugs, based on semi-synthetic or synthetic derivatives of the naturally occurring molecules found in plants, as well as drawing insights from indigenous Australian communities and highlighting people-plant interrelationships and the vital concept of “caring for country”. Laura Rival takes us to Ecuador and Brazil to investigate the national commodification of Wayusa and Guarana, products also seeping into international markets, contrasting the means of processing and consumption, and the ontologies used to frame their use in local, national and global contexts. On to the Orient, we are led to consider industrially manufactured potency-boosting powders forming part of traditional Chinese medicine’s repertoire and vital aim of immorality, yet marketed to enhance both the libido and reproductive capacities. Elisabeth Hsu reflects on desire, leisure and sex in the city and the chemical, cultural and multifaceted challenges posed by such potency boosters that currently flourish on the high street - north and south, east and west.
Thinking in the spaces between disciplinary scholarship, we attempt to define the notion of human flourishing. We invite participants to dynamically engage with the global challenges of our time, be stimulated by scholars with research-led insights and reflect on the questions posed, in interactive discussion and exchange.