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Introduction: Conceptual, Methodological, Practical, and Ethical Challenges in Studying and Applying Indigenous Knowledge

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Carothers, Courtney; Moritz, Mark; Zarger, Rebecca
Journal: Ecology and Society
Volume: 19
Date: 2014
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/9659
Sector: Social Organization
Subject(s): traditional knowledge
indigenous institutions
Abstract: "For over a half a century, indigenous knowledge systems have captured the attention of anthropologists. Recently, interest has intensified both inside and outside the discipline among scholars and practitioners in a wide variety of contexts ranging from international development, resource management, sustainability and resilience, disaster response, climate change, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, and ethnoveterinary studies. Simultaneously, sophisticated conceptual and methodological approaches have been developed, such as cultural consensus analysis and participatory mapping. Many of these recent advances tend to rely on theories of knowledge that focus attention on mental models and discrete, encapsulated, and abstracted aspects of knowledge that can be documented using formal interview methods (e.g., freelists, triads, pile sorts, surveys). However, a growing number of anthropologists have found that these approaches and techniques constrain descriptions and obscure the hybrid and heterogeneous nature of indigenous or local knowledge and modes of understanding. For example, as Lauer and Aswani (2009) note, 'More research is needed to develop approaches and methods that can empirically record aspects of knowledge and understanding that are commonly ignored in indigenous knowledge studies,' in order to, 'more fully explore, comprehend, and appreciate indigenous people‛s lives and perspectives in a rapidly changing world.' In keeping with this call, many recent approaches to the study of knowledge converge on the recognition that knowledge is embedded in multiple systems of practice, beliefs, values, and power across all scales. As such, new concepts and methods are needed for studying and representing contemporary indigenous knowledge that traverses many different systems of understanding."

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