Abena Dove Osseo-AsareBitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa

University of Chicago Press, 2014

by Carla Nappi on April 10, 2014

Abena Dove Osseo-Asare

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyAbena Dove Osseo-Asare’s wonderful new book is a thoughtful, provocative, and balanced account of the intersecting histories and practices of drug research in modern Ghana, South Africa, and Madagascar. Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2014) tells the stories of six plants, all sourced in African countries, that competing groups of plant specialists have tried to transform into pharmaceuticals since the 1880s. The leaves and roots and seeds of the book’s narrative collectively map the contours of a story that emerges from a crucial and germinal tension: on the one hand, much of the history of the plant sciences in these African spaces is motivated by a race for patents and scientific credit; at the same time, the mobility of plants across the borders of Osseo-Asare’s study has complicated efforts to assign priority of discovery to individuals or groups, and in fact challenges the very notion of a “traditional” or “indigenous” body of knowledge in the first place. Simultaneously a carefully situated ethnography and a history informed by a material archive that encompasses pages and petals, the book explores that tension in a critical assessment of what it means to talk about “African” science or “local” knowledge. Bitter Roots will deservedly have a wide audience in African studies, science studies, and the histories of medicine, pharmacy, and botany.

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Sean D. MurphyLitigating War: Mass Civil Injury and the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Law] Professor Sean D. Murphy is the Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law at George Washington University and co-author of the book Litigating War: Mass Civil Injury and the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (Oxford University Press, 2013) with Won Kidane, Associate Professor of Law at the Seattle University Law School, and Thomas R. Snider, an international arbitrator [...]

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Xolela MangcuBiko: A Life

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Host Jonathan Judaken speaks with Xolela Mangcu, biographer of Anti-Apartheid leader Steve Biko, about the life and murder of Steve Biko, as well as the struggle for equality in South Africa under Apartheid rule, and how it relates to the Civil Rights Movement in America.    

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Genocide Studies] In our fast-paced world, it is easy to move from one crisis to another.  Conflicts loom in rapid succession, problems demand solutions (or at least analysis) and impending disasters require a response. It is all we can do to pay attention to the present moment.  Lingering on the consequences [...]

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Gabrielle HechtBeing Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade

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Lidwien KapteijnsClan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Legacy of 1991

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Simon P. NewmanA New World of Labor: The Development of Plantation Slavery in the British Atlantic

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[Cross-posted from New Books in American Studies] Ask most educated people about the development of American slavery, and you’re likely to hear something about Virginia or, just maybe, South Carolina. In his far-reaching but concise and elegantly written new book A New World of Labor: The Development of Plantation Slavery in the British Atlantic (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), Simon [...]

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John K. ThorntonA Cultural History of the Atlantic World, 1250-1820

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[Cross-posted from New Books in American Studies] Thanks in no small part to John K. Thornton, professor of history at Boston University, the field of Atlantic history has emerged as one of the most exciting fields of historical research over the past quarter century. Thornton has long insisted that the the age of discovery fostered linkages between [...]

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