The aesthetics of a name; emergence of The Kakadu Plum
Efforts to commercialise native Australian plants in the last few decades have made plain the incongruences between Indigenous knowledge systems, Western scientific practices, and Euro-American intellectual property laws. The paper draws upon ethnographic work with Aboriginal persons, plant and food scientists, commercial bioprospecting entities, and government officials, to understand how the law shapes social relationships of production, exchange, and attribution of the Kakadu plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana). Against the historical backdrop of highly-charged biopiracy allegations in response to the (il)legitimate patent applications of several US cosmetic companies, the paper attends to the technicalities and materialities of recent claims to intellectual property rights over the name ‘Kakadu plum’. The paper will trace how, as plants and associated data are collected, exchanged with scientists from different fields, and transformed through bureaucratic frameworks, they are stripped of other forms of knowledge and culturally specific plant-human relationships. These circuits of exchange are shaped by the uneven application of sovereign power across jurisdictions, divergent practices of actors who operate in legal borderlands, and the translations that occur at the boundaries of different forms of knowledge in the pursuit of achieving “officialdom” in neoliberal bioeconomies.
Jocelyn is a PhD candidate on the ARC Laureate Project. Jocelyn is interested in the intersection of biodiscovery research and the patent system. She is undertaking a comparative analysis of the access and benefit sharing (ABS) legislation in Australia, and the implications of the United Nations (UN) Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity. She completed her studies at The University of Queensland, where she studied dual Bachelors of Science/Laws (Honours) with a concurrent Diploma of Languages (French). She is a graduate of the UQ Advanced Study Program in Science (ASPinS) and conducted three undergraduate research projects in plant biology and agricultural science. The results of her rice cold tolerance research were published in Crop and Pasture Science in 2016.
It's a really interesting issue and shares a lot with other foods that grow across different nations, different languages. In the case of macadamia nuts, they were variously called bush nuts, bopple or bauple nuts, queensland nuts, mullumbimby nuts and even Australian nuts. Aboriginal names include gyndl, jindilli, boombera and bauple. Macadamia, on the other hand, was the American trade name from the beginning. The alliance seems like a really positive move.
Excellent paper, Jocelyn. Very important to have stories such as this properly researched and recorded.
Hi Jocelyn. Great, well put together paper! I really enjoyed it. In your personal opinion how important is the Kakadu Plum name? Can other names such as Billy Goat Plum penetrate the market/capture the imagination the same way? Can there be an authentication of the Billy Goat Plum name or another agreed upon name by different indigenous communities/organizations that gives said name more legitimacy in the eyes of consumers?
Also, I have just been alerted to stories in the Australian in the last couple of days about Jock Zonfrillo of Orana and criticisms of an indegenous produce database he has been funded to build. A space worth watching.
Excellent paper that chimes well with my current interest in the legal protection of Indigenous knowledge in general but particular of Indigenous foods. I am interested in the decolonisation of this knowledge within the context of Indigenous sovereignty and control. For those interested here is a paper that is informing my thinking.
I'm so glad this research is being undertaken. I looked into it briefly a few years ago (The Mary Kay controversy) but ended up very much lost in semantics and the herculean task of settling on any kind of 'answer' to the question. I'd be interested in hearing your personal opinion on where boundaries should be drawn in the commercialization of indigenous foods/medicines, and how this might be achieved given (among other things) the vast disparity in financial resources available to competing parties? I'd also be interested in hearing about supply/demand parameters and how primary producers are negotiating the difference between harvesting wild produce and farming? Are vast western monocultures of Kakadu plum plantations on the rise, and if so -what is the ecological impact? Thank you for a very thought-provoking presentation!
Amazing coverage of diverse and sensitive topics Jocelyn.