300pp., illus., maps, paperback, Chicago, 2014
- Includes the chapter, "Take Kalahari Hoodia for Hunger".
"In a refreshing and innovative approach to bioprospecting, Bitter Roots helps to fill this gap by telling the stories of six African healing plants - rosy periwinkle, Asiatic pennywort, grains of paradise, Strophanthus, Cryptolepis, and Hoodia - all of which have been the subject of commercial investigation. By taking us on a historical journey from colonial exploration and exploitation to the contemporary controversies within which such plants are located, Osseo-Asare shows how multiple innovators have contributed toward the shaping of scientific knowledge. Through meticulous ethnographic research, she demonstrates how class distinctions allowed some parties to claim credit for drug discovery at the expense of others, highlighting the complexity of natural product research in African countries. Bitter Roots is not only engaging and provocative, but also provides new perspectives on old stories, in a region that has received little attention." The American Historical Review
“By choosing to investigate colonial and postcolonial science through scientific work with plant medicines, Abena Dove Osseo-Asare deepens our understanding of the power relations not only between African and European or American scientists but also between healers and these indigenous and foreign scientists. Her detailed account of transnational scientific collaborations will be a lasting contribution to the field of science studies.” Stacey Langwick, Cornell University
'Bitter Roots is a book for our times: an age of bioprospecting and biopiracy, with hope for partnerships bringing bioprosperity. Abena Dove Osseo-Asare’s remarkable investigations clarify both the facts and the issues through the example of how the roots of several plants associated with Africa have been used, studied, and remade. She notes the slippery entanglements between traditional and scientific practices and, in the process, stalks not only knowledge but justice. Informative, bold, and sensitive.” Harold J. Cook, author of Matters of Exchange, commerce, medicine, and science in the Dutch Golden Age
Abena Osseo-Asare is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley.