Misdirection and the Regulation of Herbalism in France and England

Cloatre, Emilie and Urquiza-Haas, Nayeli (2022) Misdirection and the Regulation of Herbalism in France and England. Science & Technology Studies, 35 (2). pp. 30-51.

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In this paper, we propose to explore how the regulation of herbalism, in France and in England, rests on series of ‘misdirections,’ with the coexistence of law and herbalism depending on multiple magical illusions. Attempts to regulate herbalists, and the responses they invite, involve multiple sleights of hands both by the law and by herbalists. Herbalists perform misdirections to maintain an illusion of legality, even where they bend legal rules that they deem incompatible with their practice.  But far from being the only, or even the most effective, tricksters, herbalists are only one set of performers in a more complex layering of legal illusions. The regulatory and legal infrastructure itself relies on misdirections enacted through everyday legal procedures that trick the general public into believing that the law is ‘acting’ to protect vulnerable consumers from dangerous healers and their medicines, while the effects of its actions may be to tolerate, or indeed produce, zones of illegal, or ‘barely legal,’ practices. At the same time, this performance is enabled by playing a disappearing act, in which the knowledge of herbalists, and the demands of their users, are disappeared behind the screen of apparent legal protection. Drawing attention away from competing claims to knowledge, and towards its protective intervention, the legal system thereby embeds misdirections of its own kind.

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Journal Article
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Science & Technology Studies
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23 Feb 2023 13:50
Last Modified:
20 Sep 2023 01:58