Doctoral candidate Dianah T. Kacunguzi successfully defended her dissertation, "Knowledge Preservation Practices of Herbalists in Uganda: An Ethnographic Study," on March 31.
Her committee included Professor Emerita Linda C. Smith (chair); Associate Professor Maria Bonn; Assistant Professor Peter Darch; and Affiliate Professor Clara Chu, director of the Mortenson Center.
Abstract: In this era of Westernization, traditional medical knowledge (TMK) is increasingly facing the risk of getting lost. If this knowledge is lost, it may be lost forever. This explains the growing and widespread need to preserve TMK in indigenous communities around the world to minimize the possibility of extinction. This is a naturalistic inquiry that seeks to understand the "Knowledge Preservation Practices of Herbalists in Uganda." This study closely examined how herbalists in Uganda preserve TMK to sustain ongoing practices and foster longevity of their knowledge for use by future generations as a remedy to health problems. The study was meant to extend our understanding of endangered TMK and reveal how different choices are negotiated by herbalists, in facilitating ongoing practices and access to TMK by future generations in Uganda.
In this study, I adopted a culturally sensitive and appropriate approach to research in accordance with Smith's Power Sharing Model and a Three-layered Model for Cultural Preservation. The Power Sharing Model is where researchers seek the assistance of the community in order to have meaningful results whereas the Three-layered Model foregrounds three aspects of organizational tools, resilience and sustainability in cultural preservation. I adopted an ethnographic approach in order to avoid making culturally and contextually naïve generalizations about the study. The study aim was to develop an in-depth understanding of herbalists' knowledge transmission practices within their "real life" environments and obtain rich data to make more meaningful interpretations about TMK preservation in Uganda. The focus was on attitudes that herbalists have regarding TMK preservation in Uganda, how herbalists from varied indigenous groups acquire and share their knowledge, the documentation and preservation practices that exist among herbalists, as well as the challenges they face in preserving their knowledge.