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Context, co-presence and compossibilities: bioprospecting between endogenous knowledge and science in South Africa

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This paper describes and explores the case of a South African bioprospecting consortium involving some technology transfer, but also exhibiting features of a biotechnology learning network which includes different communities-of-technology practice and various partnerships, within a national system of innovation. This emerging social architecture for knowledge production is occurring at the tension-fraught intersection of South Africa's biodiversity and two coexisting epistemic cultures of unequal power modern science and indigenous knowledge systems. The case suggests that there is a need to probe power/knowledge/culture relations further in configurations for technology development and innovation in Africa, as well as the role of national public organisations in shaping new technology development policy. The bioprospecting project, while not unproblematic, may be a case of social innovation whose effectiveness will depend as much on a more equitable "inward stretch" to endogenous knowledge as on "outward reach" to global sources.

Keywords: biotechnology, South Africa, learning networks, indigenous knowledge, innovation, social studies of science and technology

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