The role of schools as an opportunity for transmission of local knowledge about useful Restinga plants: experiences in southeastern Brazil

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Background: The study of cultural transmission can help identify processes that influence knowledge systems dynamics and evolution, especially during childhood and youth, which are fundamental phases in acquiring survival skills. In this sense, we use the knowledge about useful restinga plants (Brazilian coastal vegetation) as an analytical model to describe, compare, and analyze cultural transmission during youth, while factoring in origin, in the Cabo Frio region, southeastern Brazil. We tested (1) whether transmission of knowledge is conservative, (2) whether immigration events define the transmission modes, (3) whether teaching is the most important social transmission cognitive process, and (4) which type of stimulus/context is most important for the knowledge transmission process. Methods: Questionnaires and free listings were applied to 150 high school students aged between 15 and 20 to obtain information about socioeconomic characteristics, useful plant knowledge, and cultural transmission. We analyzed the distribution of knowledge according to the informant’s origin and evaluated the models, processes, and context with which this information was transmitted. The chi-square test was used to determine the association between origin, plant knowledge, and transmission as well as to reveal the most important models, modes, and processes during youth. Results: Informants provided 299 plant citations (x¯ = 1.75; s = 1.73) related to 37 species. The categories of the most cited uses were edible (93) and medicinal (32). Statistical results showed that origin did not influence knowledge distribution and transmission. In addition, although the most relevant mode was the conservative (vertical) one, the one-to-many diffuse mode (teacher) was highlighted. The new environmental context for immigrants did not influence transmission, the main transmission process was teaching, and the learning contexts were predominantly school-related. Conclusion: Plant knowledge in youth was related to local edible and medicinal plants, indicating adaptive knowledge linked to material demands for survival. While the initial models for cultural transmission are family (vertical), during the development phase of juveniles, other actors become models (one-to-many). In addition, the nature of the information (survival demand) and age are more relevant to cultural transmission than the socio-environmental context.




van Luijk, N., Soldati, G. T., & da Fonseca-Kruel, V. S. (2021). The role of schools as an opportunity for transmission of local knowledge about useful Restinga plants: experiences in southeastern Brazil. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 17(1).

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