IU Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics and Society’s Information, Ethics, and Sociocultural Values Seminar
presents Dr. Laura Foster, IU Gender Studies
Reinventing Hoodia: Patentability, Materiality, and Belonging in South Africa
In Reinventing Hoodia, Dr. Foster's argue for scholarly attention to what she terms “multiple modalities of materiality” to understand both how society differentially values certain forms of knowledge and matter over others, and also how both humans and nonhumans can act in ways that unsettle these hierarchies. This enables an examination of how Indigenous San peoples, South African scientists, and Hoodia growers made claims to belonging through attachments to different modalities or expressions of the same Hoodia species as either plant from nature, as molecule, or as cultivated. Examining the materiality of both the bodies of plants and of the law, she illuminates how the technical and material parts of Hoodia patent documents and benefit sharing agreements discursively naturalize Hoodia molecules as propertied invention, while showing how Hoodia plants disrupt their commercial promise by failing to reduce weight, growing slowly in the ground, and spreading their seeds wildly. In doing so, she addresses nonhumans as subjects but also how those historically considered nonhuman--in this case San peoples--continue to struggle for recognition as fully human through claims for legal recognition and belonging.