Over the past 30 years, emergent global health and trade policies have transformed "traditional medicine" into a contested biomedical endeavor. Brazil has been particularly affected by these policies due to its vast biodiversity and numerous labelled as traditional. As a result, the country has implemented strict intellectual property laws, has begun to invest in federal research on medicinal plants and other forms of traditional medicine, and in 2009 established its National Program of Medicinal Plants and Phytotherapeutics based on the World Health Organization's traditional medicine program, integrating medicinal plants into Brazil's national healthcare system. This multi-sited ethnographic project compares the effects of these recent policies on how two Afro-Brazilian communities (Afro-Brazilian religious groups and quilombola communities) in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Pará conceptualize their own uses of traditional medicine in general, and medicinal plants specifically. Research also includes a discursive analysis of international, national, and state policies pertaining to traditional medicine and medicinal plants (including environmental, pharmaceutical, trade, and health policies) as they relate specifically to these two communities. Research explores how differences such as religiosity, region, and historical relations affect how the Brazilian government approaches each group’s use of plants as healing agents. Particular focus has been placed on women's institutional and political roles in negotiating citizenship in relation to activism around health and social inequality.

Degree Date

Fall 12-15-2018

Document Type


Degree Name





Nia Parson

Subject Area


Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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