“Savage knowledge,” ethnosciences, and the colonial ways of producing reservoirs of indigenous epistemologies in the Amazon


  • Raphael Uchôa




Ethnosciences, Amazon basin, bioprospection, colonialism, history of science


This paper explores the intricate relationship between the concept of “savage knowledge,” its significance during the ninteenth and twentieth centuries, and the emerging field of ethnoscience. It specifically focuses on the Amazon region as a pivotal area in the development of ethnoscience, examining the contributions of renowned naturalists Carl von Martius, Richard Spruce, and Richard Schultes, who each conducted scientific expeditions to the Amazon during this era. Their works are crucial in reevaluating the dynamic interplay between the Western perception of the “savage,” the scientific principles that underpin it, and the geopolitics of knowledge exchange between countries in the global north and south. I argue that the contextual conditions which made possible the emergence of ethnoscience, including imperial assimilation, extraction, and coloniality, continue to exert influence on twentieth century political discourses concerning the integration of indigenous cultures into global politics. This influence is evident through the analysis of a UNESCO document in the second part of the paper. The study concludes that the incorporation of indigenous knowledge, systematised by ethnoscience, has often served as a pretext for controlling geographical areas historically regarded as “natural resources,” ultimately transforming them into reservoirs of indigenous epistemologies.


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How to Cite

Uchôa, Raphael. 2024. “‘Savage knowledge,’ Ethnosciences, and the Colonial Ways of Producing Reservoirs of Indigenous Epistemologies in the Amazon”. Journal of Social Ontology 10 (2). Vienna, Austria. https://doi.org/10.25365/jso-2024-7693.



Special Issue Cultures & Ontologies: Empirical, Ethical & Political Consequences