Leaving the magic out: knowledge and effect in different places

James Leach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In 2010, Porer Nombo and I launched a book about indigenous Papua New Guinean plant knowledge to a large audience at a University near to his village on the north coast of that country. Members of the audience commented that the book made a record of important practices. But they asked if those practices were dependent on secret magic to be effective? What gave us the right to include such secrets? Or, if there was in fact something fundamental missing from the book (magical formulae to activate the processes described) then what was the use of publishing the book? Thinking through their questions suggested the need to analyze what ‘knowledge’ is in different places, and why plants might be effective in some, but not others. In this paper I attempt an explanation that does not rely on a ‘social’ explanation of ‘magic’ but instead suggest that what we call ‘magic’ are mechanisms whereby a gardener (or healer, or hunter) positions an action, or a thing in relation to other things. I liken the way myth works in these systems to the way intellectual property law provides a comparable ‘mythic’ structure that locates effect in ‘knowledge economies’ and I conclude by asking; if places embody their history and politics, and generate different understandings of effect, then what are the implications of calling Porer’s practices with regard to plants, ‘knowledge’?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-270
Number of pages20
JournalAnthropological Forum
Volume22
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

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knowledge economy
intellectual property
myth
village
Law
politics
Magic
history
History
Property Law
Healers
Intellectual Property
Fundamental
Coast
Village
Knowledge Economy
Gardeners
Hunters

Keywords

  • knowledge
  • magic
  • plants
  • myth
  • intellectual property

Cite this

Leaving the magic out : knowledge and effect in different places. / Leach, James.

In: Anthropological Forum, Vol. 22, No. 3, 11.2012, p. 251-270.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Leach, James. / Leaving the magic out : knowledge and effect in different places. In: Anthropological Forum. 2012 ; Vol. 22, No. 3. pp. 251-270.
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