Dominant knowledge systems and local knowledge (1998)

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The relationship between the "modern world" and the "developing world" has often been expressed in the language of development. Although vast sums have been invested trying to find a solution matters appear to have got worse rather than better. It would appear that some development projects actually contribute to this deterioration. In addition development has often produced an environmental crisis and the serious depletion of forest resources. A largely neglected aspect of such development is the dominant part played by "modern" or "western scientific" knowledge. Not only is indigenous knowledge ignored or dismissed, but the nature of the problem of underdevelopment and its solution are defined by reference to this world-ordering knowledge. Until very recently little or no credence was given by scientists and scholars grounded in Western tradition to the validity of non-Western indigenous knowledge.

Even now when Western scholars begin to acknowledge the existence of indigenous knowledge they have trouble understanding and interpreting what for them is a foreign level of reality. Since indigenous knowledge generation does not use the same methods of data collection, storage, analysis and interpretation as the scientific tradition, those trained in the scientific tradition have great difficulty in acknowledging the validity of data generated in unfamiliar ways. Even those who do acknowledge the existence of indigenous knowledge generally apply scientific methods to verify and validate indigenous knowledge. They seek to recognize their categories in native systems, and apply their typologies to what they think indigenous knowledge systems are. Few Western scholars are able to accept indigenous knowledge as valid in and of itself. They have great difficulty rethinking groupings so as to uncover basic organising principles which are unfamiliar, and to identify and affirm the integrity of indigenous systems. Recently efforts have been made to think through the implications of recognising fundamentally different knowledge systems. One aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between scientific knowledge systems and indigenous knowledge systems, but before that we need to address the nature of knowledge, knowledge systems, paradigms, and cognitive processes so that we have a conceptual framework.
Language: English
Imprint: 1998
Series: Report,