A Decolonial View

By students in the Colonial and Postcolonial Master



Zingiber officinale, an example of a medicinal plant used in multiple cultures

Zingiber officinale, an example of a medicinal plant used in multiple cultures

Biopiracy is a term that describes the extraction and use of traditional knowledge and genetic resources to be used in research as well as in the development of commercial products when this extraction is made without taking into consideration national legislation of the country of origin but also the rights of indigenous communities. Typically biopiracy does not provide any sharing of the benefits between countries (and communities) of origin and entities exploiting it.

The inventions that are the result of biopiracy are very often protected by patents, making it impossible even for the original holders of the genetic resources to exploit them commercially. Zingiber officinale is an illustrative example. This is a plant found in India and South China. The English botanist William Roscoe gave the plant the name ‘ Zingiber officinale in 1807.

In fact recent biotechnological research related to ginger some new ingredients were obtained, such as zingerone, shogaol, and paradol. Zingerone (4-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-2-butanone) is in fact a nontoxic and inexpensive compound with varied pharmacological activities.

Zingerone was first isolated from the ginger root in 1917 by Hiroshi Nomura, a chemistry professor at Tokyo Imperial University. Zingerone is absent in fresh ginger but cooking or heating transforms gingerol to zingerone. Zingerone is closely related to vanillin from vanilla and Zingiber officinale, an example of a medicinal plant used in multiple cultures

eugenol from clove. Zingerone has potent anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antilipolytic, antidiarrhoeic, antispasmodic properties. Furthermore, it displays the property of enhancing growth and immune stimulation. It behaves as appetite stimulant, anxiolytic, antithrombotic, radiation protective, and antimicrobial. Also, it inhibits the reactive nitrogen species which are important in causing Alzheimer’s disease and many other disorders. To say the least, this is an ingredient with numerous pharmaceutical applications of major importance. Some of them are obviously also applications with lucrative commercial exploitation potential.

While this is a plant found and commonly used in Kerala, Andhia Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra, for its medicinal properties, the patent rights to be granted to the inventions, that are the results of modern research will be granted to the private companies and research institutes of the past. The communities that have developed the traditional knowedge on which modern research has built upon, and the countries of origin will not receive any benefits from the commercial applications of the modern re-packaging of this well-known traditional medicinal plant.


Frantzeska Papadopoulou

”When we were Samis”/”När vi var samer”

Book cover Mats Jonsson

”When we were Samis”/”När vi var samer” by Mats Jonsson

For the lucky ones who can read Swedish there is a book I would warmly recommend to read! This is Mats Jonsson’s book, ”När vi var samer”, published in 2021. It tells the story that we are longing to find out more about, the story of the Samis. Unravelling his own family story and looking into his Sami roots, Mats Jonsson, dives into Sami history and of course most certainly thus Swedish history since the 1600s. The book is not a traditional book. It is written in a cartoon form and in black and white. To be honest, that non-conventional way of writing was peculiar to me and the first pages were difficult to follow and digest. But after page 40 (this is also when the real story starts), everything changes, you are taken away by the narrative, and I (personally) got used to the ”cartoon-like” way of writing.

Providing a review for this book is not a simple endeavour. History is narrated together with family history (a part of the book that I was not always able to follow). And from the discussions on the history of the ”coffee tree” (the tree where the predecessors of the author used to hang their coffee pot), to the terrible story of “Stor-Stina” the author keeps the reader’s interest. ”Stor-Stina”, Kristina Katarina Larsdotter (1819–1837), who was shown as a freak, never stopped growing, died young and whose skeleton was then displayed at Karolinska Institutet’s museum, directed by the notorious Anders Retzius – the father of craniology, who developed theories about short- and long-bald people – by extension the basis for theories about cultural stages, in short racism.

”When we were Sami”, provides an illustrative description of the struggle between Sami history and identity and the Swedish colonial empire. Although it includes sad elements, it is not a sad book. The quest for the author’s identity, history, becomes a quest for Swedish history, the real, the whole history, including the dark sides of Sami exclusion and cultural extinction.

Mats Jonsson’s storytelling technique is also so liberating, the alternation between reportage and fiction manages to communicate a difficult subject in an entertaining and easy way.


Frantzeska Papadopoulou

Poland presented as colonizer


Discussion about colonialism and postcolonialism in Polish discourse is relatively fresh. However, it is not fresh in terms of discussion of French, British and other countries’ colonialisms, but the one that would be directly connected with the country itself. Relatively new are discussions that would combine the issue of Poland being colonized. However, the interesting thing that is taking place is connecting anyhow Poland with the issue of colonialism and being seen as a colonizer. Further, apart from the dominant discussion about colonialism and Polish neighbours, many interesting stories about this topic appear in the form of interesting facts.

Therefore, by conducting a very quick and short search through google, I was curious what could be found under the phrase “Polish colonialism”. I anticipated that the topics would be connected with dominant issues. However, what brought my attention were the articles in which Poland was presented as a colonizer. It would not be surprising if the articles spoke about early Polish times but recalled the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Such example is the idea to move (the entire) Polish population that would be independent to an island in The Pacific Ocean. Even though the idea was more than controversial, the thinking behind was that such a move would set Poles free from the neighbours. So considered was choosing the independence for the sake of the Polish.

Another interesting attempt to start participation in colonialism was Liga Morska i Kolonialna (Naval and Colonial League), which aimed to open the path to Polish colonialism by buying overseas lands. Even though the interest in this movement was significant, the idea collapsed once the Second World War broke out.

Even though digging deeper into these areas would probably reveal other nuances, it is interesting to see that such ideas were present. Connecting Poland based on analogies with colonialism by being colonized is one thing already present. However, less often is the discussion about Poland as colonizer, which seems to be interesting especially based on the times in which the claims were made.


By Katarzyna Kiryluk