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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 359-367

Termites, Mud Daubers and their Earths: A Multispecies Approach to Fertility and Power in West Africa

Current Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

Correspondence Address:
James R Fairhead
Current Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, University of Sussex, Brighton
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.197613

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The termites and mud-dauber wasps of West Africa build earthen structures in which their eggs and larvae develop. This paper examines how these insect earths are understood and used in West Africa, focusing on their direct consumption (geophagy) and medicinal qualities. Existing research reveals these earths to be enriched in minerals otherwise lacking in the diets of the region, and suggests that insects may also introduce anti-microbial properties into them. The paper examines the place of these earths in the lives of those who use them and through a 'multispecies' approach provides new insights into the ecological dimensions to 'religious' thought and practice, and of the respect that these insects command.

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