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The Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine Debates Series

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The Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine presents a new debate series focused on some of the big questions that ethnobiology and ethnomedicine are facing today to frame their role in supporting global sustainable development.

We invited opinion leaders to make the case either “For” or “Against” contentious topics in ethnobiology, environmental studies, and medical and food anthropology. The series is also open to further unsolicited articles from researchers and practitioners worldwide who wish to contribute to the debate.

This debate series aims to curate thought-provoking contributions for all readers. Furthermore, it aims to achieve the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine’s mission – supported for nearly 20 years now – to bring ethnobiology and ethnomedicine to the forefront of research and claim their pivotal role in fostering the ecological transition and a more sustainable world.

This Collection supports and amplifies research related to SDG 15: Life on Land.

Guest Editors: 
Alfred Maroyi, PhD, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
Giulia Mattalia, PhD, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain
Andrea Pieroni, PhD, University of Gastronomic Sciences
, Italy
Irene Teixidor-Toneu, PhD, Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d’Écologie Marine et Continentale, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
, France

Submission Status: Open   |   31 December 2024

Debate: Does local, national, and international governance have a primary role in shaping the resilience of local ecological knowledge?

Guest Editor: 
Alfred Maroyi, PhD, University of Fort Hare, South Africa

The role of policy and governance can be seen as more or less crucial in diversifying and increasing opportunities for livelihoods in several regions of the world. In forest and woodland areas, for example, wild edible fruits, indigenous or traditional leafy vegetables, or medicinal plants and their processed products represent sources of important activities and livelihoods, such as production of food and medicines, generation of income from sales of raw and processed goods, as well as community and cultural aspects that support spirituality, indigenous knowledge, and several ecosystem services. In this debate, experts argue on whether policy processes and governance at all levels (locally, nationally, and internationally) manage to, or fail to, really recognize and represent those diverse livelihoods derived from the variety of forms of biodiversity, discussing their role in shaping the resilience of local ecological knowledge.

Debate: Is ethnobiology romanticizing traditional practices, posing an urgent need for more experimental studies evaluating local knowledge systems?

Guest Editor: 
Andrea Pieroni, PhD, University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy

In recent decades, local ecological and medical knowledge and practices have been the core of a number of white papers at international level and are rapidly becoming more visible within the public arena. However, some may argue that there is a serious risk to romanticize these local knowledge systems far beyond their essence and to neglect the fact that local knowledge is often fuzzy, hieratic, heterogeneous, contradictory, and especially needing to be seriously assessed by experimental studies.

Are we romanticizing traditional knowledge? A plea for more experimental studies in ethnobiology

Here Marco Leonti argues that traditional knowledge should not only not be romanticized but critically questioned, also with the help of experiments, like any other science and form of knowledge.

Dark local knowledge: the yet-to-be scientifically discovered and locally acknowledged aspects of local knowledge systems

While in science the label of romanticization signals an unscientific approach, local knowledge systems may contain aspects that are difficult to describe empirically. In this response, Renata Sõukand introduces the concept of 'Dark local knowledge' to map the interaction between local traditional knowledge and scholarly science.

Debate: Are local knowledge systems still practised mainly because of less-advantaged circumstances?

Guest Editor: 
Andrea Pieroni, PhD, University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy

As recently postulated, local ecological knowledge sometimes may not be maintained because of positive values about the environment and by the choice of local communities, but quite the opposite, by their lack of choice underpinned by poverty or deprivation. We invited expert authors to make the case for and against this thesis.

Traditional ecological knowledge sustains due to poverty and lack of choices rather than thinking about the environment

Abdullah Abdullah and Shujaul Mulk Khan argue why and how traditional ecological knowledge is driven by poverty and lack of choices rather than positive environmental values.

Local and traditional knowledge systems, resistance, and socioenvironmental justice

Natalia Hanazaki provides counterarguments against the causal argument that the maintenance of local and traditional knowledge systems is related to less advantaged circumstances. 

Debate: Should ethnobiology and ethnomedicine more decisively foster hypothesis-driven forefront research able to turn findings into policy and abandon more classical folkloric studies?

Guest Editor: 
Andrea Pieroni, PhD, University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy

Key expert authors argue for and against the need to de-emphasise the role of classical folkloric studies in research in ethnobiology and ethnomedicine.

Descriptive ethnobotanical studies are needed for the rescue operation of documenting traditional knowledge

In this debate, Łukasz Łuczaj claims that the primary aim of ethnobiological research is now to document disappearing traditional knowledge, as a priority due to the rate at which biocultural biodiversity in the world is disappearing.

Beyond artificial academic debates: for a diverse, inclusive, and impactful ethnobiology and ethnomedicine

Victoria Reyes-García argues that a major strength of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine is their ability to bridge theories and methods from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, and that fragmentation through opposing different approaches might weaken the discipline. 

Integrating depth and rigor in ethnobiological and ethnomedical research

In this rebuttal, Ulysses Paulino Albuquerque and Romulo Romeu da Nóbrega Alves argue for a synergistic approach where both descriptive ethnobiology and hypothesis-driven research are valued for their unique contributions to understanding human–nature interactions and informing policy.

Submission Guidelines

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This Debate welcomes submission of Research Articles, Data Notes, Case Reports, Study Protocols, and Database Articles. Before submitting your manuscript, please ensure you have read our submission guidelines. Articles for this Debate should be submitted via our submission system, Snapp. During the submission process you will be asked whether you are submitting to a Debate, please select "The Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine Debates Series" from the dropdown menu.

Articles will undergo the journal’s standard peer-review process and are subject to all of the journal’s standard policies. Articles will be added to the Debate as they are published.

The Guest Editors have no competing interests with the submissions which they handle through the peer review process. The peer review of any submissions for which the Guest Editors have competing interests is handled by another Editorial Board Member who has no competing interests.