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Negotiating Local Knowledge

Negotiating Local Knowledge: Power and Identity in Development

Johan Pottier
Alan Bicker
Paul Sillitoe
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Pluto Press
Pages: 344
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt18mbd5m
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    Negotiating Local Knowledge
    Book Description:

    The contributors to this volume offer an original approach to debates about indigenous knowledge. Concentrating on the political economy of knowledge construction and dissemination, they look at the variety of ways in which development policies are received and constructed, to reveal the ways in which local knowledges are appropriated and recast, either by local elites or by development agencies. Until now, debates about indigenous knowledge have largely been conducted in terms of agricultural and environmental issues such as bio-piracy and gene patenting. The contributors to this volume break new ground by opening up the theoretical debate to include areas such as post-war traumatic stress counselling, representations of nuclear capability, architecture, mining, and the politics of eco-tourism. Their findings have important implications for anthropology, development studies and other related disciplines.

    eISBN: 978-1-78371-926-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, Business
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 NEGOTIATING LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: AN INTRODUCTION (pp. 1-29)
    Johan Pottier

    Two decades ago, social anthropology became interested in ‘indigenous knowledge’ as a possible antidote to the failures of externally driven, transfer-of-technology focused, top-down development (UNESCO-Nuffic 1999: 11; Warren 1998). Underpinned by some deeply rooted assumptions, for instance, that local knowledge was bounded, static, consensual, non-reflective and unscientific (Howes and Chambers 1979), the initial search for indigenous knowledge convinced both anthropologists and developers that it was legitimate to look for and extract local knowledge elements for use in science. If local knowledge had anything to offer, it was because science could make use of it. The presumed consensual character of local...

  5. 2 A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION FOR THE LACK OF EXPLANATION; OR, ‘WHY THE MASTER BUILDER CAN’T EXPLAIN WHAT HE KNOWS’: INTRODUCING INFORMATIONAL ATOMISM AGAINST A ‘DEFINITIONAL’ DEFINITION OF CONCEPTS (pp. 30-50)
    Trevor H.J. Marchand

    The assumed goal of anthropology is to learn about what members of (other) societies and cultures know about the world, the manner in which people come to know what they know, and the ways that they represent and communicate their knowledge. The primary aim of this chapter is to move towards a better understanding of the nature of knowledge – as something acquired, possessed and communicated – by introducing a theory of concepts.

    In order to know about knowing, we must understand what knowing consists of, that is, what are the constituents of what we call knowledge or thought – and how do...

  6. 3 EXPLOSIVE NARRATIVES: THE ARTICULATION OF ‘NUCLEAR KNOWLEDGE’ IN MUMBAI (pp. 51-73)
    Raminder Kaur

    Starting in May 1998, India and Pakistan carried out a series of nuclear tests in an obsessive game of one-upmanship. Whereas ambiguity, if not secrecy altogether, was previously the order of the day, a new, unmitigated visibility of nuclear capability has emerged in these rival countries. Formerly both governments swore to the concept of ‘recessed deterrence’ vis-à-vis nuclear weapons; now both have switched to ‘overt deterrence’ (Deshingkar 1998: 1298). This is not to say that military and scientific knowledge has become totally transparent, but to observe that nuclear weapons have walked onto the South Asian stage of conflict drama. As...

  7. 4 KNOWLEDGE INTERFACES AND PRACTICES OF NEGOTIATION: CASES FROM A WOMEN’S GROUP IN BOLIVIA AND AN OIL REFINERY IN WALES (pp. 74-97)
    Alberto Arce and Eleanor Fisher

    This chapter examines encounters between international institutions that frame their objectives through a global policy language, and people whose lives are the focus for change heralded by these institutions. It explores how a global policy language, which seeks consensus and equality, can be at odds with local understandings, conflict and intentions. This is done by examining two cases based on commissioned research undertaken by the authors as members of larger research teams.¹ The first piece of research focuses on the perceptions of women from a development group in Bolivia, which has received assistance from a European bilateral donor. The second...

  8. 5 ANTI-SOCIAL ‘SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT’? GOVERNMENTALITY, INDIGENOUSNESS AND THE DFID APPROACH ON MONTSERRAT (pp. 98-120)
    Jonathan Skinner

    This extract from a sketch at the cultural show ‘ASH: The Second Falling’, performed by the drama groupPlenty Plenty Yac Ya Yaon Montserrat in January 2000, summarises the feelings and perceptions held by many indigenous Montserratians towards the staff and strategies of the Department for International Development. Since July 1995, the island of Montserrat in the Eastern Caribbean has been in a state of emergency. For the last five years, there have been several increasing and decreasing phases of volcanic activity centred about Mount Chance on the Soufriere Hills mountain range in the southern centre of the island....

  9. 6 ‘ALL BEEN WASHED AWAY NOW’: TRADITION, CHANGE AND INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE IN A QUEENSLAND ABORIGINAL LAND CLAIM (pp. 121-154)
    Benjamin Richard Smith

    In this chapter I discuss the involvement of anthropologists, Aboriginal people and representative organisations in a land claim over a National Park in northern Queensland, Australia. Such claims, focusing on evidence presenting connections between an Aboriginal ‘group’ and the land claimed by them, depend on the production of particular representations of indigenous knowledge. In outlining this process, I attempt to show ways in which differing perceptions of what ‘indigenous knowledge’ is, or might be, often fail to articulate with each other, and the way such failure intensifies a separation between contemporary Aboriginal life and its representation – ethnographically, legally and politically....

  10. 7 MANAGING NATURAL RESOURCES IN EASTERN ALGARVE, PORTUGAL: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE POLICY USES OF LOCAL KNOWLEDGE(S) (pp. 155-170)
    Manuel João Ramos, António Medeiros, Pedro Sena and Gonçalo Praça

    In Portugal, the first ecologically-minded NGOs and associations were somewhat marginal forms that sprang from the political fever of the 1974 revolution. In many respects, it was Portugal’s integration as a full member of the European Community (now European Union) that eventually led to the creation of a Secretary of State for the Environment. In other words, political issues deriving from human impact on the environment were initially fuelled not by popular concern but by administrative pressures from European institutions, which resulted in forms of imitative behaviour within Portugal’s major political parties (strongly influenced by the political programmes of other...

  11. 8 INTERFACES OF KNOWLEDGE: THE REVIVAL OF TEMPLES IN WEST HUNAN, CHINA (pp. 171-188)
    Mary Rack

    Throughout China, the economic changes following the reforms of the early 1980s have been accompanied by the rebuilding of temples destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. In this chapter, I consider forms of knowledge inherent in the activities that take place at these temples in West Hunan. I suggest that temple activities are not so much a return to a previous tradition, countering the disruption caused by China’s involvement with modernity, as a form of constantly recreated local knowledge which is highly relevant to China’s continuing economic and social changes.

    West Hunan is an area where experiences of modernity are characterised...

  12. 9 THE GLOBAL FLOW OF KNOWLEDGE ON WAR TRAUMA: THE ROLE OF THE ‘CINNAMON GARDEN CULTURE’ IN SRI LANKA (pp. 189-214)
    Alex Argenti-Pillen

    I observed that the conflicts and tensions of today’s world are affecting the mental health of millions of people. To cope with this situation – which is fully important, if not as immediate, as the need for food, medical care, and shelter – it is necessary that our vision be broadened ... The book ‘International Responses to Traumatic Stress’ is a major contribution to our future agenda ... [it] demonstrates the need to focus specifically on questions of traumatic stress, an area too often neglected ... Securing mental health for the people of the world must be one of the foremost objectives...

  13. 10 MODERN INFORMATION WARFARE VERSUS EMPIRICAL KNOWLEDGE: FRAMING ‘THE CRISIS’ IN EASTERN ZAIRE, 1996 (pp. 215-240)
    Johan Pottier

    In late 1996, Rwanda invaded eastern Zaire with the tacit approval of the UN. The invasion ended the refugee crisis, or so it seemed to some at the time, and culminated in the removal of president Joseph-Désiré Mobutu Sese Seko. The UN applauded the end of ‘the crisis’ as an African solution and congratulated itself on not intervening. Rwanda’s vice-president and defence minister, Paul Kagame, now president, later congratulated the Clinton Administration, the driving force behind the UN stance against intervention, for ‘taking the right decisions to let it proceed’.¹

    This chapter contrasts the dominant narrative on ‘the crisis’ in...

  14. 11 PLAYING ON THE PACIFIC RING OF FIRE: NEGOTIATION AND KNOWLEDGE IN MINING IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA (pp. 241-272)
    Paul Sillitoe and Robin A. Wilson

    The island of New Guinea is adjacent to the ‘Ring of Fire’, the active plate margin that encompasses the Pacific basin, so-called for its active volcanoes and earthquakes. The tectonic activity results in the formation of valuable ores such as gold and copper associated with igneous rocks and tropical laterite weathering produces nickel and cobalt ores. In recent decades mining companies have increasingly sought to extract these, having developed the technology necessary to work in the island’s remote mountains. In other parts of the island, where sedimentary geology predominates, exploration has revealed large petroleum and gas reservoirs which oil companies...

  15. 12 FROM SEDUCTION TO MISCOMMUNICATION: THE CONFESSION AND PRESENTATION OF LOCAL KNOWLEDGE IN ‘PARTICIPATORY DEVELOPMENT’ (pp. 273-297)
    Dario Novellino

    While the involvement of local communities in developing projects is today recognised as a necessity, there is still a tendency to underestimate the role of the factors that jeopardise successful communication between development workers and local people. The conditions under which people may decide to ‘disclose’ their ‘knowledge’, and make their needs explicit, are very difficult to create. Interaction between community members and project workers (for example, developers or conservationists) seldom leads to mutual comprehension. Frequently, negotiation builds upon a number of misunderstandings that may be fostered intentionally or spontaneously due to differences in cognition, expectation, background knowledge, language and...

  16. 13 THE STILL WATERS OF THE NILE (pp. 298-321)
    Stan Frankland

    As with the rest of Africa, Uganda makes the world headlines only when it lives up to the myth of the heart of darkness; when an act of brutality evokes an image of (re)primitivisation strong enough to meet the expectations of media consumers and producers. Floods, starvation, massacres and military coups: these are the thematic signs that make up the populist image of modern Africa. Post-independence Uganda has proved to be a fertile source for such grisly images of human suffering, its bloodthirsty history encapsulated by and in the ridiculed figure of Idi Amin. He stands alongside Mobutu, Bokassa and...

  17. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS (pp. 322-325)
  18. INDEX (pp. 326-336)