Human Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 193–204 | Cite as

The Biodiversity Discourse: Categorisation of Indigenous People in a Mexican Bio-prospecting Case



Indigenous knowledge is often portrayed as static and traditional, while indigenous people are considered victims of exploitation. In the name of development and empowerment NGOs as well as scientists may run the risk of representing indigenous communities that fit their definition of the “correct” way to be indigenous. However, for indigenous people knowledge is not necessarily a static condition in a binary position to science or the ‘modern’ world. Rather, it is a dynamic condition that draws from experience and adapts to a changing environment. The perspective advanced in this paper is that all forms of knowledge, including indigenous knowledge(s), are situated and hybrid. Our argument draws from research carried out in Chiapas, Mexico, regarding the ICBG-Maya bio-prospecting project that was initiated in the 1990s and later terminated due to accusations of bio-piracy.


Bio-prospecting Bio-piracy Hybrid knowledge Discourse Empowerment Indigenous knowledge Mobilizing metaphors 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian College of Fisheries ScienceTromsøNorway
  2. 2.Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA)LillehammerNorway

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