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Refereed articles

Indigenous peoples, corporate power and the knowledge economy: The law and politics of knowledge protection

Alex Tawanda Magaisa argues that knowledge has always been contested territory but, as the centrality of knowledge or information systems increases in the global economy, so have the contests over its ownership. Exploring the struggles over indigenous knowledge systems, he focuses particularly on medical knowledge systems.

The article notes that indigenous systems were subordinated by Western systems during the colonial encounter and, whereas intellectual property laws were created to protect the latter, the former were regarded as mere superstition and left vulnerable. Today, however, there is greater interest in indigenous knowledge systems, especially among pharmaceutical and bio-chemical companies seeking new medicines; yet indigenous peoples who hold the knowledge are not acknowledged or compensated for their contributions. The author argues for the reconstruction of the legal landscape and for the protection of all knowledge systems to eliminate the phenomenon of the 'dominant and the other' and consequent exploitation.

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