Each of the above approaches constitutes a moral argument. They call for the equality of knowledges based on the assertion that either all ways of knowing the world, including the sciences, are belief, or all are knowledge. Many indigenous knowledge scholars and activists transpose the frame offered by modernist knowledges: facts are values, knowledges are beliefs, 'nature' is actually 'culture', cultures are like nature, and so on. It is worth noting that the proponents of the cultural diversity approach often use the analogy of the value of biodiversity, which makes the rather troubling assertion that different cultures are like different species.
This is a very similar argument to that which was used by apartheid's ideologues. Yet transposing the colours on the chess board, to use an analogy, does not change the frame. Arguments that invert the modernist dualisms - facts or values, knowledge or belief, nature or culture - leave the structure of those ideas intact. It is important to note that there are significant trade-offs in accepting the idea of culture as given, because it is bound up in the origins of European romantic nationalism.
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Without a critique of culture, the study of different ways of knowing is unable to comment on the complex enmeshing of capital, governance, science, global law, history and nationalism in the production of difference. What it can offer, however, is a circular argument: cultural difference is because of culture.
Inevitably, such an argument proposes a stark division between 'Western culture' or 'Western science' and 'African or other knowledge'. An example is in the South African study offered in Boaventura de Sousa Santos' wide-ranging collection of papers on regional knowledge debates titled Another knowledge is possible. The author, Thokozani Xaba, whose wider body of work makes an important contribution to knowledge debates in South Africa, argues 42 :. Africans [in South Africa] find themselves constantly destabilized while the benefits derived from the holistic approach and the egalitarian nature of indigenous medicines are not being realized.
Instead, Africans are subjected to modern practices, among which are the invasive techniques of 'scientific medicine'. Despite its publication amid the South African AIDS crisis in , the article makes no mention of the debate between traditional medicines and antiretrovirals in South Africa. The argument relies on the identification of an authentic African tradition that is separate from Western science. Yet, is it not the case that where the state plays a role in 'proscribing' and 'normalizing' traditional healing p. While that research is important and appropriate, there are significant difficulties in setting up 'authentic culture' as the touchstone of the argument.
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Firstly, it relies on a particular definition of 'culture' to define the debate: a definition that is deeply rooted in the intellectual heritage of the European Enlightenment. In my view, a critique of that set of ideas is profoundly important in rethinking the ways in which African history is written. Secondly, there is little space, in an argument that takes 'authentic culture' as a given, either for the criticism of tradition, or for traditions of criticism.
Like his wider scholarship, Xaba's article 45 raises the important issue of medical pluralism. Yet, like Mbeki's science war and his more recent challenge to scholars to rethink the relationship between knowledge and democracy, the approach underscores the need for a scholarship on knowledge that will rethink the terms of the knowledge debate, and explore whether 'science' and 'indigenous knowledge systems' are indeed the most useful concepts that can be deployed for the purposes of policy and university transformation.
The unintended consequences that have attended the South African science war point to a situation where an analysis that leaves these categories unquestioned, forecloses the possibilities for generative dialogue on intellectual heritage. The second half of this article will return to these questions. The breakdown in dialogue on African intellectual heritage in South African scholarship also has much to do, I suggest, with the inheritance of a style of criticism in the critical humanities that insists its work is done by 'outing' associations and interests.
The insistence on the part of the critical left in denouncing ethnonationalism without engaging the politics of knowledge that regional thinkers on indigenous knowledge have highlighted, creates intolerable conditions for scholars like Xaba who swim against the tide of ideas that is the heritage of the post-apartheid critical humanities in South Africa. In sum, notwithstanding its very important contributions in highlighting the relationship between coloniality and scholarship, the 'cognitive justice' movement has not set its horizons wide enough. In uncritically accepting the conceptual structure of modernity, its capacity to offer different thought is curtailed.
When 'culture' defines the terrain, it brings with it the romantic notion of 'Being', in which nationalist sentiments reframe the experience of being in a collective simply being together as 'the Being of togetherness', in the words of Jean-Luc Nancy. At what historical point did people begin to think in the tidy social boundaries that are implied by the idea of 'culture'?
The argument that I am offering has several points of agreement with the critical humanities. Yes, the idea of 'indigenous knowledge' is often ahistorical. Yes, it may rely on a kind of culturalism that draws heavily on the colonial vision of culture as comprised of genealogies and blood ties. Yes, it is often the case that 'indigenous knowledge movements' assert an historically problematic notion of ethnicity that may well serve the interests of a class of elites, and yes, it is troubling to see the use of tradition to insulate indigenous knowledge discussions from criticism.
Such criticisms are well noted. Yet they are not the sum of what can be said about different knowledges and ways of knowing. The focus on identity politics within South Africa's critical humanities is, I suggest, misplaced. By limiting the critique to the way in which the idea of 'culture' is politically constructed and appropriated to one or other identity whether ethnic or otherwise , the argument loses its way. Such an argument may have been of value in an era in which culture and identity were central elements of apartheid ideology. But South Africa's contemporary science wars have shifted the fight out of the terrain of culture and social forms, to that of 'nature' itself: what is real, what is rational, what is science, how is nature known, whose sciences ought to prevail in a democracy, and so on.
It is appropriate for Parliaments to question in what sense the sciences can claim to define nature, reality and truth. But where the argument begins to be resolved by an identity politics of knowledge - 'Western' or 'African' science - a democracy that depends on science for policies, policing and judgement is indeed in deep trouble. Activists, in such a context, have not found in scholarship the tools to mount an effective response, and have met the state's efforts to assert an identity politics of nature by denouncing interests and associations and beliefs rather than reframing its questions, and grappling with the intellectual heritage of scholarship itself.
If nothing else, the South African version of the science war teaches that scholarship by denunciation is a toxic game. The recognition that it was with much the same tools of argument that Mbeki asserted that AIDS was a social and political construction has enormous consequences for those of us in the critical humanities who were schooled to detect and 'out' interests and associations of powerful elites.
But the struggle over knowledge that has come to be defined as 'indigenous knowledge' cannot be adequately described as culturalist, or ethnonationalist, or fundamentalist, or a movement of political elites, or the marginalised. If South African scholarship is to move beyond the current impasse, there is a need for recognition that the idea of 'indigenous knowledge' not only incorporates claims to identity or efforts to incorporate financial gain, but also indexes a challenge to central ideas of modernity: including in relation to notions of personhood in medicine and jurisprudence, to notions of ecologies, to notions of well-being, and to what it means to know or believe or imagine.
Once one recognises the language of indigenous knowledge as a resistant appropriation of the language of difference, and that it is not solely the advancement of interests that is at stake but an interest in the possibility of different worlds other than those defined by the Cartesian dualisms mind-body, nature-culture, and so on , it becomes possible to escape the paralysis of a debate confined to whether or not 'indigenous knowledge' is a 'thing' that is or is not 'real'.
A rich range of literatures informs the possibilities that are opened by such a shift in approach, and in the remainder of this article I set out four interrelated conversations that illustrate possible approaches for researchers who hope to engage with a wider intellectual heritage.
Things: Towards a critique of modernist ontologies. In re-reading aspects of the indigenous knowledge debates as a resistance to the available frames of modern knowledges, 48 a first possibility emerges: that at times the very 'things' under discussion may be different. Many South African fishers, for example, offer accounts of the ocean as a partner to whom you listen and with whom you have a relationship. Neither is it the 'ocean' that is known by ecosystem service assessments, for example, as something that can be valued by price tags.
Nor is it the kind of ecosystem proposed by popular documentaries as one that does not have any people in the picture.
It is also not the ocean that is the means of production, in stock assessment science, of calculable quantities of a single species of fish. Fish, too, might be understood differently: many fishers speak of the intelligence of fish, and do not see them as the unintelligent and unresponsive forms of life that appear in annual catch quotas. Yet a fisher's 'ocean-as-partner', or 'fish-with-intelligence' does not necessarily need to be 'converted' into 'fish or ocean as objects' in order to ensure their conservation.
As fisheries management moves toward an ecosystem approach to fisheries that includes a consultative relationship with fishers in terms of the Convention on Biodiversity , the partnership that many fishers describe when they speak of the sea and fish is a resource for embattled marine conservationists that has no price tag. Much as the ocean can mean different things to fishers, it can also mean different things in the sciences. A marine biologist who has fished for 40 years can know the ocean in ways that even he or she cannot communicate in a quota committee that only allows decisions to be based on natures that can be represented in calibrations and quantities.
A marine ecologist might see the sea very differently from the stock assessment scientist, in much the same way as a fisher who acquires access to industrial-scale extractive capacity might begin to think quite differently about fish. The point is that the 'natures' that are in play are not based on someone's cultural or 'stakeholder' identity, but on their actual interactions with sea and fish.
The shorthand term for this insight is that of a 'relational ontology'. Such an insight reflects the beginnings of a paradigm shift in a dialogue on the nature of knowledge in the humanities and sciences. With sufficient time for generative dialogue 58,23 about different ways of knowing the sea, including how to evaluate knowledges, the management of the marine ecosystem as a commons might begin to be a reality in specific locales. This conversation would be very different from the one that is currently polarised between knowledges that are presented as identity-based 'fishers' and 'scientists' and those that are 'cultural belief' versus 'natural science'.
Where the terms of the debate categorise knowledges as different before the parties have spoken a word to each other, there is very little chance of discovering the linkages and partial connections that might begin a new conversation. Indeed, it is perhaps partly for this reason that rather than securing the active cooperation of fishers, marine conservation efforts have to date provoked a great deal of resistance.
Questions of public involvement in the generation of knowledge are central to the work of Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers, although in very different ways to those proposed by former president Thabo Mbeki in a speech in January Major resources include Latour's We have never been modern? These conversations point to a reconceptualisation of knowledge as constantly produced and reproduced in interactions. Knowledge, in this view, is not the acquisition of unmediated facts, nor is it the unmediated apprehension of intellectual heritages or indigenous knowledge.
There are always mediations - and as such, knowledge studies are at their strongest when focused on careful study of how knowledge objects come to be generated. Such an approach is not a cultural relativism but instead brings to conversations about the democratisation of knowledge an attention to the ways in which research processes bring particular realities into being.
The problem of translating complex relationalities into 'things' is central to current South African debates on African knowledges. Two examples suffice. Sangomas' traditional healers' insights into the consequences of social relationships for health and disease extend beyond the notion of health as the property of an individual person and their biochemistry.
Similarly, different understandings of what it is to be an ethical person generate markedly innovative approaches to conflict resolution where jurisprudence is understood in relation to uBuntu. Embodied knowledges and data. Rethinking the split of mind and body, so dominant in the intellectual heritage of the Enlightenment, offers a second arena of enquiry on knowledges and ways of knowing.
Scholarship on knowledge is increasingly turning attention to practice-based knowledges that are not easily rendered as numbers.
By contrast, technologies - like geographical information systems, databases, heart rate monitors - can produce what a court of law might regard to be 'justified true belief'. How might scholars account for the ways of knowing that exist in the hands of the midwife who reads the birthing belly with her hands? How might she defend what she knows in a court of law where her accusers accuse her of 'malpractice' because she did not generate a constant stream of numbers from a foetal heart rate monitor that would have tethered the labouring mother to a hospital bed?
Under what conditions of argument would her accusers acknowledge that years of experience in obstetric medicine builds a very similar sets of skills, which obstetricians prize as much as they do the patterns emitted from their heart rate monitors? At the core of this argument is the recognition that some ways of knowing lie outside the terrain of formally accredited knowledge, in many cases not because they are not justifiable but because they rely on forms of sensory data for which technologies which might measure them have not yet been developed, and because knowledge that is hard to quantify or write down is hard to work with in dialogues between the sciences and non-formalised, embodied knowledges.
Yet the difficulty of those kinds of conversations which may happen between fishers and marine conservationists in much the same way as between midwives and obstetricians is not because the knowledges in themselves have some radical cultural difference. The difficulty of translating these kinds of different knowledges is because the sciences have inherited years of tradition: to remove almost all bodily senses except the visual from its ways of knowing.
Beyond Reason: Knowledge, Religion and Science in the West
The enumerable - that which can be counted - counts as evidence. The relationship between law, technology, writing and knowing, in this scenario, comes up for scrutiny. The realisation is provocative: archives, databases and evidentiaries measure that which is visible within a particular intellectual heritage, or scholarly orientation. Technologies, in other words, bring particular knowledge objects into being.
The implication: programmes of research that look for generative dialogues across knowledge traditions can work towards grasping different measurables, and different evidentiaries, and perhaps need to be bold enough to rethink what it is that technologies could be measuring. In order to pursue this kind of innovation, the methodology is ethnographic: detailed, careful attention to how people know what they claim. A recent work that explores this approach is that of anthropologist Tim Ingold, whose book Lines: A brief history 74 offers a critique of technologies of data collection.
Ingold's project attends to the ways in which modernity relies on data-recording technologies - such as cartography, musical notation and architectural drawing - that in the name of objectivity remove movement and embodied senses other than the visual from the notation of information. Ingold's project yields many possibilities for a re-engagement of the humanities, sciences, technology, and ways of knowing that have not found their way into curricula.
Reasons for knowing: Scales, models and visual arts. The observation that different knowledges emerge in relation to technologies also is pertinent to thinking about scales and models. Fishers who are familiar with specific bays can comment on changes in the availability of fish in qualitatively different terms to those of a scientist assessing average catches in latitude-longitude.
Different scales, in other words, are not just about data compression but reflect different purposes people have for knowing and therefore different knowledge objects or differently known relationships are in the models. Different reasons to know produce different objects of attention, or different facts - or, to use Latour's phrase, different matters of concern.
If 'knowing' in the sciences involves what epistemologist Catherine Elgin calls reconfiguration - 'reorganizing a domain so that hitherto overlooked or underemphasized features, patterns, opportunities, and resources come to light' 77 - then it becomes possible to open a much more nuanced debate over the uses of the imaginative arts, scales and models in dialogue with different ways of knowing. These kinds of arguments offer a bridge for scholars who want to explore the possibilities of different ways of knowing.
The late Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze argued for understanding varieties of rationality. Eze's untimely passing is a great loss in this field, and his posthumously published work offers an important commentary on understanding rationalities in relation to rationales for knowing. Towards a critique of the knowledge economy. Building on these insights it becomes possible to offer a critique of the knowledge economy itself, in which rationality and the sciences and many contributions on indigenous knowledge are often framed by the calculative logics of capital.
For Isabelle Stengers, the kinds of knowledge produced in the knowledge economy where universities subsist in a particular relationship with capital, monetary logics, temporal logics, added value, and other controllables , are unable to deal with the unsettled, the unnameables, the ways of knowing that are part of life and care - in short, the aspects of knowledge and knowing that are not easily 'thingified'.
In this, an important local question is: in what ways does the South African science war, with its stark positions on science and traditional medicine, set up conditions in which discussions of care and nurture and nutrition become 'dissident science'? In what ways does this in turn contribute to the conditions of thought that allow a diabetic patient to spend a day in a primary health-care clinic and receive four successive drips but no food? This experience was related to me by an elderly Black woman after she was treated in October at one of the Day Clinics in the greater Cape Town area.
The point is not to blame-shift, from one side to another, but to recognise that stark polemic makes for stark choices, and that sometimes the polemic itself is caught up in that which undermines nurture, care and well-being. Stengers' call is for academics to stop developing ever cleverer denunciations of one side versus another, and to open a dialogue about a different ecology of knowledge that might offer researchers a way of moving past the destructive fallout of the science wars.
Stengers' work also provokes questions about the entanglement of indigenous knowledge with the knowledge economy in emerging markets like South Africa, India and Brazil.
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For example, once particular molecules have passed their clinical trials and are defined as traditional medicine or 'TM' in its popular abbreviation , the trademarked TM TM constitutes a new knowledge object that takes on a very particular life in national wealth creation projects whether in South Asia or South Africa, in Black economic empowerment projects, and in global networks that hold together pharmaceutical chain stores, streetside vendors, rural museums, biopiracies and nascent ethnonationalisms.
Without question, wealth creation is an important part of redressing the historical injustices that are built into the knowledge economy. Yet I think the question needs to be asked as to whether the TM TM approach has become a new form of 'thingification' that renders unnameable exactly the sorts of vitalities and ways of knowing and being that constitute the indigenous resistance to the global economy.
Such a resistance is evident not only in Latin America, 48 but also in the 'slow science' movement in Europe. The current South African policy on indigenous knowledge systems 82 is, I propose, heavily invested in the neoliberal knowledge economy. The model evinces a trade-off: it gets space in the Department of Science and Technology and in some universities, but in a way that all too frequently sets it apart as 'African knowledge' which, because of its very separateness, has very little capacity to challenge what Bruno Latour calls the 'three goddess sisters of reason in the knowledge economy', namely, ' technical efficiency, economic profitability and scientific objectivity' And yet it is precisely the different ecologies of knowledge, and different iterations of reason and the reasonable that inspire much of the indigenous knowledge movement.
How might scholars recover this critique, and offer a different kind of intellectual hospitality? In my view, the difference begins with the recognition of the entanglement with capital in current state-led approaches to indigenous knowledge in South Africa. Once that is on the table, it becomes possible to ask different kinds of questions, and to develop a different intellectual project. Might 'indigenous knowledge' be pursued via an investment in the commons rather than the stock market? In this scenario, what kind of dialogues about knowledges might be possible, where knowledge is not understood to be part of democracy because diversity is tolerated, but because there is democratic dialogue on the tools of testing, criticism and innovation?
How might the capacity to test knowledge and ways of knowing be rethought, and rekindled? What aspects of knowledge lie outside the realm of monetarisation? What kind of practices lie outside of laboratory testing? What aspects of knowing resist quantitative research? What kind of public spaces are opening for criticism of patriarchal elites? Under what conditions could the humanities and sciences be able to support the emergence of these new conversations? All of the above approaches make a case for critical engagement with the current policy on indigenous knowledge in South Africa.
Such an engagement requires rethinking the assertions, currently enshrined in the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Policy, that 'indigenous knowledge' exists primarily as a static cultural inheritance with the potential for wealth creation in the knowledge economy, and that formal science and its associated technologies are the only way to measure and define knowledge.
Much more interesting and productive, I think, is to pursue a critical enquiry into intellectual heritages, including the ways in which the project of contemporary scholarship continues to defend a particular kind of divide between knowledge and belief that emanates from the battle to separate church and state in Europe so long ago. Is it necessary to continue to fight that battle in the way that we do?
How might we re-read the peace treaty between church and state of that era, and instead of continuing that crusade to separate 'dark belief' from 'the light of knowledge' , to consider the applicability of its principles in other spheres such as the intersection of knowledge and capital, or knowledge and coloniality, or knowledge and race? Having done so, what fresh insights might be gained on the emergence of the distinct categories of 'indigenous knowledge' and 'science'?
Beyond a knowledge politics of 'cognitive justice' and the TM TM that bear such a burden in the global race for World Intellectual Property and patents, could the possibilities for intellectual debate expand if the questions posed under the troubled banner of indigenous knowledge are reimagined as a debate about intellectual heritage, including that of modernity? Would publics find new spaces for re-tooling criticism and innovation?
If scholars work in ways that nurture different ecologies of knowledge, might dialogues begin to imagine alternative vitalities that speak to different notions of public health and jurisprudence? Might it be possible, by engaging with different knowledges and ways of knowing, for postcolonial universities to find the resources to mount a serious challenge to the three goddess sisters of reason in the knowledge economy?
If scholars are to strengthen the relationship between the national indigenous knowledge systems agenda and current dominant forms of knowledge, debate on these kinds of issues is worth the trouble. This paper reports on an ongoing project and owes a great deal to participants in the Contested Ecologies project at the University of Cape Town in and the many international guests who have offered orientation to regional scholarships.
I declare that I have no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced me in writing this paper. Sundar N. Agrawal A. Dismantling the divide between indigenous and scientific knowledge. Dev Change. Indigenous knowledge and the politics of classification. Lal V. Empire of knowledge: Culture and plurality in the global economy.
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