Royal pharmaceuticals

Bioprospecting, rights, and traditional authority in South Africa

by Christopher Morris

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The translation of international biogenetic resource rights to a former apartheid homeland is fostering business partnerships between South African traditional leaders and multinational pharmaceutical companies. In the case of one contentious resource, these partnerships are entrenching, and in some instances expanding, apartheid-associated boundaries and configurations of power. The state and corporate task of producing communities amenable to biodiversity commercialization and conservation is entangled with segregationist laws and spatial planning. Rather than exclusion and the closure of ethnic boundaries, resource rights in this context foreground forced enrollment and the expansion of indigenous group-membership as modes of capitalist accumulation in an extractive economy.

Ntaba kaNdoda on the day of the 2011 Heritage Day festival, September 24, 2011 (near Keiskammahoek, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa).
Ntaba kaNdoda on the day of the 2011 Heritage Day festival, September 24, 2011 (near Keiskammahoek, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa). (Christopher Morris)