Traditional Medicine in Transition. Herbal Medicine as endangered living cultural heritage

Thematic Focus:
Knowledge Production and Transfer
Involved Countries:
Switzerland, Uganda

Received Funding By:

Dr. phil. Jacqueline Grigo
Religionswissenschaftliches Seminar
Universität Zürich
(ehemals Völkerkundemuseum Zürich)

Dr. habil. Alexander Kocyan
Institut für Pflanzen- und Mikorobiologie
Botanisches Museum, Universität Zürich

James Tumusiime, Moses Kashure
Igongo Cultural Centre and Institute, Mbarara,
Makerere University, Kampala, College of Natural Sciences, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology,

Nelson Abiti, Amon Mugume
Uganda National Museum, Kampala.

The planned project «Traditional Medicine in Transition. Herbal Medicine as endangered living cultural heritage» represents the follow-up to «Points of view. Museum Cooperation between Uganda and Switzerland», a collaboration that has existed since 2015 between researchers of the University of Zurich and two Museums in Uganda (National Museum in Kampala and Igongo Cultural Center in Mbarara).
The participatory research and exhibition project aims at investigation, documentation and display of local knowledge and cultural practices concerning medicinal plant use in Uganda and Switzerland, against the background of socio-cultural and environmental change.
The topic was suggested by the Ugandan Partners for reasons of great local relevance. During an evaluation and future workshop in Zurich in early February 2020, a first project outline was developed with the Ugandan partner institutions. The workshop also included exploratory field trips and further networking activities to attract new potential partners (new partners for the cooperation are: the Botanical Museum (UZH), and the Religious Studies Seminar (UZH), but also researchers from the Makerere University, Kampala).
From the definition of the research questions to the implementation of the results, the application-oriented project will be planned and carried out by an interdisciplinary team of researchers of the University of Zürich in cooperation with the above mentioned Ugandan Museums and the University of Makerere (Kampala). Part of the results of the ethnobotanical and ethnographic studies will be communicated in (mobile) exhibitions in both countries, that will act – not only as means of presentation and education but as research tools at the same time (Museum as research method). Furthermore, in Uganda the establishment of botanical gardens is planned, for education and research purpose.
For a further concretion of the project’s overall research questions and targets and for the definition and planning of the next project phases and modes of cooperation we intend to carry out a next Workshop in Uganda in spring 2021.
Description of link to 2013 – 2016 kick-start project
In 2015, we already received a Kick-Start Grant from the University of Basel under the title “Drinking Deeply from Museum Work”. The previous project dealt with the topic of Ugandan and Swiss milk cultures – more on this at .

This project was based on participatory research activities in both countries and resulted in four exhibitions (three in Uganda and one in Switzerland) as well as several publications and conference contributions. Important part of the research project, that was reflected in the Swiss exhibition, took a critical look at the opportunities and challenges of transnational participatory cooperation on an equal footing (against the background of current debates around decolonization of museums and universities in the Global North).
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The next phase of cooperation builds on years of proven experience and on a successful cooperation-team.