Important to “recognize the entanglement with capital in current state-led approaches to indigenous knowledge in South Africa. Once that is on the table, it becomes possible to ask different kinds of questions, and to develop a different intellectual project.” (8)
Green calls for the postcolonial university to find the resources to mount a serious challenge to the ‘(technical) efficiency, (economic) profitability and (scientific) objectivity’ that undergird the neoliberal knowledge economy in order to engage seriously with different knowledges and ways of knowing. (10)
AO: Osseo-Asare notes that benefit sharing as a model has over-emphasized local priority and has failed to acknowledge the widespread distribution of herbal knowledge. She argues that traditional medicine in African contexts may be more diffuse and less tied to regional environments than has often been assumed. Osseo-Asare questions the assumption that IK is local knowledge and argues that traditional medicine was shared across a wide range of communities and was relatively public. Taking a long view of plants in African history she suggests their wide circulation and adaptation within overlapping systems of belief and use and within linked ecological zones shows that similar recipes for the same plant across geographic areas point to more regional continuities than differences. (page 16). She proposes that biomedicine and African traditional healing have not only been complementary but were, in fact, adapted from one another (page 18).
Through legal tools based on economic principles like benefit- sharing contracts and agreements, researchers and companies have attempted to fulfil their obligations to affected groups - compensating groups for their innovations. However, as the work reveals, underlying such tools/agreement are individualist notions of the single authored innovator. (“the idea of indigenes with original and unique— albeit shared— communal knowledge still relied on the concept of priority so integral to the logic of patents for inventors.” 33) But Osseo-Asare shows that the mobility of both biological resources and people who might use or contain them made it difficult to assign benefits to individuals or communities (19)
“Benefit sharing from the profits of patents thus becomes a symbol of the drug industry’s debt to global communities rather than of retrospective justice for specific groups.” (69)
AO: Osseo-Asare (echoing Tilley) highlights how colonial networks allowed for the circulation of herbarium materials and information on their potential uses. French harvests of periwinkle and pennywort, Scottish documentation on Strophanthus, or Dutch collections of hoodia all relocated both plants and early recipes on their uses from African contexts to European ones (201)
AO: Foster looks at how forces like the law and science construct the very matter of plants. She is interested in the materialities of patent law rules, contractual provisions and legal forms and how they mobilize networks of scientists, indigenous peoples, Hoodia growers and plants in unequal ways.
AO: She notes history of apartheid, colonial history, economic decisions to close pharmaceutical research groups, FDA approvals, as shaping the development of Hoodia.
AO: Breckenridge is interested in empire and how the triangular relationship between India, the Witwatersrand and Britain established the special South African obsession with biometric government.
AO: Breckenridge notes the mutual co-construction of South Africa and the world: “the ways in which the world made South Africa, in particular how the global fingerprinting project created a distinctive state in this country. On the other, it examines how the events and ideologies produced by the very local (and often obscure, antipodean) struggles of this history around biometric identification fashioned a global politics.” (1)
AO: He builds on Cooper to note that the state in Africa was built to control trade and that has changed little in the postcolonial era.
AO: Breckenridge notes the close relationship between India and SA: Biometric government was first developed in India, brought to South Africa by officials of the Indian Colonial Service in 1900, where it was quickly put to use against the Indians in the Transvaal. “It was Gandhi’s international protests against fingerprint registration in South Africa that prompted the development of his anti-colonial political philosophy.” (19)
AO: von Schnitzler argues that at a time when boycotts and non-payment (in the settlements) was highly politicized, prepaid meters were invested with the capacity to “delink questions of payment and infrastructure from larger claims to citizenship and to reestablish and materially enforce the boundary between the administrative and the political.” (681)
AO: The analyst notes that after Nairobi became famous (by Ushahidi and m-Pesa) as a site of tech knowlege innovation, development agencies and then private sector heavily invested in Nairobi start-ups and co-working spaces. But I would argue that these initiatives partly emerged because Nairobi was already a hub for development and capital. They became mutually reinforced by each other.
AO: high taxes on imported hardware resources make prototyping machines expensive to make.
AO: Coban argues that the Silicon Valley ideology applied in postcolonial contexts replicates postcolonial imaginations. However, I would counter that this again follows an assumption of a “diffusion model” that assumes Silicon Valley ideology is foreign to Nairobi when in fact it is caught up and inbricated in everyday life (not just to the foreigners who fly in and out of Nairobi).
AO: Citing Ferguson (2006) and Mbembe (2001), the authors note that Africa has been (re-)constituted since the 1980s as a landscape of lack, defined by absences and negativity (esp. to address ‘weaknesses’ in the public sector left (or made) by measures of ‘structural adjustment). This echoes ongoing discourse about the “lack” or deficit of good data in/on/from Africa.
AO: The authors note the erosion of public infrastructures – and the proliferation of non- governmental and private initiatives in the absence of state care and science – that drove a wedge between health and citizens’ rights, public welfare and collective visions of civic progress (Loewenson 1993; Price 1988; Prince and Marsland 2013; Riddell 1992). (351).
AO: Authors note that transnational collaboration in health research and quasi-experimental interventions have emerged as the dominant mode of health capacity building in Africa. The ‘scramble for Africa’ as a site of transnational health research and intervention has also been predicated on the lasting lack of African capacity to investigate and treat HIV (Crane 2013; Gilbert 2013).
AO: the authors argue that the development of “humanitarian technologies” anticipate the absence of state infrastructure and minimize the need for greater public commitments (e.g. Redfield 2008, 2012, 2015). ‘Community participation’ or ‘empowerment’ – common references in the capacity-building discourse – likewise seek to make health research and care function efficiently and ethically with minimal investment in infrastructure (353).
AO: The authors look at “global” and “local” standards of science while Okeke argues that the two cannot be disentangled: “While Droney and Wendland show that supposedly ‘global’ standards of good science and care may not fully capture the capacities most relevant to African health practices and outcomes (albeit in ways that invite reflection on how to define capacity everywhere), Iruka Okeke’s paper argues that African and global bio-scientific capacity are tightly imbricated.”
AO: Okeke notes that she has watched the “ivory tower tarnish in the face of structural adjustment programs at the national (Nigerian) level.” She notes in particular the material decline of science education. She notes that by the 1990s, most of the biology papers in top science journals were unintelligible to Nigerian grad students and then the library did not even stock the journals. (ix).