Plants, people, politics and profits: the Brazilian Amazon through the lens of ethnobotany

Course Dates: 09/05/23 - 23/05/23
Time: 18:30 - 20:30
Location: Online
What is ethnobotany and bio-piracy and why are they important? Bringing together horticulture, anthropology, history and political science, this course focuses on human-nature relationships, using Latin America as the prism. Join our four tutors to learn more about how humanity’s complex relationships with nature can be a new way of understanding.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Book your place
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Full fee £69.00 Senior fee £69.00 Concession £35.00

Course Code: HWH68

Tue, eve, 09 May - 23 May '23

Duration: 3 sessions (over 3 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

Humanity connects to nature in different ways. Examples could be food collection and production at the household scale over communal use of shared land between villages to private sector industrial production systems operating globally. As such, the production and travelling of knowledge is part of each and every form of relationship with nature. Think indigenous medicinal knowledge, derived not from but with nature to the benefit of local communities. Or allotment stories and secrets passed from one generation on the outskirts of major cities. Or industrial archive and record management systems in multinational companies involved in biotech or the production of cars, often operating not only globally but also in contentious ways when it comes to generating, commodifying and often patenting previously shared knowledge. In the existential context of climate change, this course begins to unpack how we can think about ethnobotany as a multi-dimensional way of understanding humanity’s complex relationships with nature.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

- Session 1: Traditional medicinal plants of Brazil and their meaning in the nineteenth century

- Session 2: Ethnobotany – relationship between people and plants in Amazonian rainforest

- Session 3: ‘The rubber cycle in the Brazilian Amazon, British biopiracy, and the Ford Company’.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- understand the different actors such as indigenous guides and local experts, foreign naturalists and medical doctors involved in the transnational circulation of knowledge about traditional Latin American medicinal plants in the nineteenth century.

- understand the relationship between people and plants in the Amazonian rainforest + What plants are eaten, medicinal use, socio cultural use.

- understand the internal and external factors behind the rubber boom in Brazil (from the 1830s to the early 20th century), its implication for the economy and socio-cultural fabric of Amazonian rural and indigenous communities, the links between Imperialism and the Brazilian rubber boom and biopiracy.

- appreciate interdisciplinarity

- assess how we build knowledge of the natural world and instrumentalise this to different ends.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This is an introductory course and does not assume any previous study or reading although you will need a good grasp of English to keep up with the topics. As with most of our history and current affairs courses, intellectual curiosity and an open mind are more important than specific previous knowledge.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be taught by tutor presentation with images and maps. There will be opportunities for group discussion and some tutor-guided analysis of documents. You are encouraged to look at materials for each session on Google Classroom before each class.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You will find a notebook (or electronic device) useful if you wish to make notes.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Please explore our history, anthopology and politics sections for related summer and autumn courses.

Sandra Carvalho See more See less
Yasmin Hales See more See less
Aleksandra Kaye See more See less

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.