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Are identities oral? Understanding ethnobotanical knowledge after Irish independence (1937–1939)
- Shannon, Fiona, Sasse, Astrid, Sheridan, Helen, Heinrich, Michael
- Journal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine 2017 v.13 no.1 pp. 65
- children, ethnobotany, interviews, politics, schools, traditions, Ireland
- BACKGROUND: The Schools’ Folklore Scheme (1937–1939) was implemented at a pivotal time in Irelands’ political history. It resulted in a body of ethnological information that is unique in terms of when, why and how it was collected. This material consists of over 700,000 pages of information, including ethnomedicinal and ethnobotanical traditions, reflecting an oral identity that spans generations and that in many cases was not documented in writing until the 1930s. The intention of this study is to highlight the importance of the Schools’ Folklore Scheme and to demonstrate an ethnographic approach based on recollections of original participants of the scheme, to further understand the material in the collection and the impact it had on the participants. METHODS: This study involves an analysis of both oral and archival data. Eleven semi-structured interviews with original participants of the scheme were carried out between April and September 2016. Their corresponding schools’ archival contributions to the scheme were located, and ethnomedicinal information was analysed and compared with the participants’ recollections. RESULTS: The majority of participants’ stated the scheme had a positive impact on them. Five participants’ recalled collecting ethnomedicinal information, and there was a direct correlation between three of the participants’ ethnomedicinal recollections and their entries in the archives. One third of all the ethnomedicinal entries analysed included the use of a plant. There were 191 plant mentions and 64 plant species named. CONCLUSIONS: Contacting the original participants offers a novel approach of analysing this archival material. It provides a unique first-hand account of this historical initiative, an insight into how the scheme was implemented and how it impacted upon the children. The ethnomedicinal and ethnobotanical information provides an understanding of the medicinal practices in Ireland during the 1930s. The plant species that were both orally recalled by participants and documented in the archives are in keeping with key ethnomedicinal systems throughout the world.