Presentation on theme: "Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)"— Presentation transcript:
1 Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Lecture 16Traditional Ecological Knowledge(TEK)
2 Indigenous. Traditional Local We discussed ‘everyday’ knowledge on our last lecture. Alternatively, everyday knowledge is also figures in literature as ‘indigenous’, ‘traditional’ and ‘local’. All these terms are a bit unsatisfactory however in one way or another. Let us look at the terms first.
3 Indigenous:descendants from the ‘original occupants’ of a certain region. Saami are indigenous, neighbouring Finns are not. BUT: Why would knowledge of a Saami and of a Finn who were born and brought up in the same area differ?turns ‘knowledge’ into a heritable property. But knowledge is fashioned through the course of people’s lives.Indigenous people are generally defined as those who are descended from the so-called ‘original occupants’ of a certain region or territory. The Saami of Finnish Lapland, for instance, are held on these grounds to be indigenous, whereas their Finnish neighbours, descended from agricultural colonists who settled in the region from the seventeeth century onwards, are said to by the same token to be exogenous. Yet both Saami herdsaman and the Finnish farmer may have been born and brought up in the region, raised among people who have likewise spent all their lives there. On what basis, then, can Saami claim to have special kind of knowledhe that Finnish people lack? In effect, this claim rests on the idea that such knowledge is ‘handed down’, rather like heritable property, from one generation to the next. Yet this claim is tantamount to an admission that it is not fashioned in people’s lives, in the course of their practical engagement with the environment. Rather, it is supposed to come ready-made, originally forged in a long-gone, ancestral past. First acquired in the form of a corpus of transmitted beliefs, it is only subsequently applied in practice.However everything that was said about Saami weather-related knwoledge – its embeddedness in personal life-histories, its dependency on modes of movement and travel, its multisensory quality, its role in spacial orientation and the co-ordination of activities, and its seasonal periodicity – flies in the face of the idea that knowledge is acquired in advance of its application. Saami people do not so much receive their knowledge ready-made as grow into it, through the experience of inhabiting an environment in the company of others. In short, this knowledge – comprising a sensitivity to critical signs in the environment and an intuitive understanding of what they mean for the conduct of practical tasks – is not really passed down at all. It rather undergoes continual generation and regenration within the contexts of people’s relationships with the world around them.The notion of indigenousness, then, is beset by contraditions. On the one hand, it seems to suggest that people partake in an original, almost primordial relation to their surroundings. Indeed it is in the context of their close involvement with the environment that Saami knowledge of the weather is forged. But on the other hand, the assumption that people derive the essence of their indigenousness – including their knowledge – by descent from ancestorls actually drives a wedge between the cultural heritage (from which this knowledge is drawn) and the natural environment (in which it is applied). The special relationship with the environment, which is supposed to be the hallmark of indigenous status, ceases to figure as the source from which knowledge grows, and is recast as a mere object of memory, handed down from generation to generation as part of a cultural tradition. Indeed it would appear that to be in receipt of indigenous knowledge, the descendants of the ‘original occupants’ need no longer live on the land at all.
4 Traditional This term implies distance and denies development. Traditional is something that is far, not contemporary. Distant is good; contemporary, tainted with modernity, is bad.Tradition is conventionally opposed to science.This one reason why the term ‘traditional’ is no more appropriate than ‘indigenous’ for characterising the knowledge that people have of the environements they inhabit. The word tradition becomes semantic telescope that is used the wrong way round. What is distant is good and what is contemporary is bad because it is tainted with modernity. The term is further compromised, however, by the way in which it has been conventionally opposed to science. You will recall the contrast between two senses in which cultural knowledge may be said to be ‘acquired’. In the first sense, knowledge is acquired through an active process of invention and discovery, in which every generation advances beyond its predecessors. In the second sense it is passively acquired through the simple transmission of habits and customs, sich that each generation takes on board the received wisdom of ancestors, and passes it on to decsendants.Now the conventional distinction between scientific and traditional knwoeldge is drawn along precisely the same lines. Scientific knowledge is supposed to progress through empirical observation and rational inquiry, whereas taraditional knowledge is accepted without further question or appeal to evidence. But it is precisely interms of this distinction that western science continues to justify its superiority over other systems of knowledge. Only science, say its advocates, has the power to grasp the objective nature of the world, to see it for what it really is, whereas the people of ‘other cultures’, locked into their alternative worldviews, are unable to distinguish reality from the manifold constructions they have placed upon it. By this move, any thereat that non-western ways of knowing might pose to the established procedures and protocols of scientific reasearch is effectively neutralised. Science can readily acknowledge the existence of alternative worldviews – or constructions of the environment – while retaining its monopoloy on understanding the reality of the natural world. Every other system of knowledge is assumed to be founded in various degrees of illusion.
5 Local‘local’ is too broad and politicised. Includes a variety of groups with proliferating self-designations.‘Local’ knowledge describes a relationship between particular peoples and a surrounding nation-states rather than knowledge shared by members of a community. However, as Anne Kalland, argues the word ‘local’ as adjective is too broad and politicised and includes variety of groups with proliferating self-designations. Cultural knowledge is learned and passed on locally and does not inhere in reified political categories. Yet once the term ‘indigenous knowledge’ becomes ideologically embedded, it gets welded to other ideas that inevitably mixes up these two. What may be overlooked is local knowledge – learned, shared, and passes on locally – and this may be a more helpful characterization…
6 Bourdieu “Language and Symbolic Power” Questions how we came to frame everyday practices as homogenous and autonomous knowledgeNo reflection on social, historical and political conditions of the processTwentieth century scholarship treats knowledge as something neutralIf we want to know how indigenous knowledge proliferated, we need to concern ourselves with the social conditions under which such knowledge becomes defined, produced, reproduced, and distributedBourdieu in Language and Symbolic Power questions how we come to frame everyday practices as autonomous, homogenous, internally bounded objects of knowledge amendable to prescribed kinds of analysis. …He argues that conventional scholarly approaches too often assume an object domain without reflecting on the social, historical, and political conditions. Twentieth-century scholarship treats knowledge as though it were somehow neutral. If we want to investigate how such a topic as complex as indigenous knowledge proliferated, we need to concern ourselves with the social conditions under which such knowledge becomes defined, produced, reproduced, and distributed (or repressed and eliminated) in struggles for legitimacy” (Cruikshank 1998: 49).
7 Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Acknowledgement of alternative cultural constructions of the environmentThe notion has emerged during the 1980s as part of a well-meaning attempt to re-empower local communities whose voices and interests had been marginalised by the dominant discourse of science-based modernisation and development.This acknowledgement of alternative cultural constructions of the environment nowadays takes the form of characterising the knowledge of inhabitants as ‘traditional ecological knowledge’, or TEK for short. The notion of TEK emerged during the 1980’s as part of a well-meaning attempt to re-empower local communities whose voices and interests had been marginalised by the dominant discurse of science-based modernisation and development.
8 Indigenous knowledge has always served as a foil for concepts of Western rationality (Cruikshank 1998).‘Primitive superstition’, ‘savage nobility’, ‘empirical practical knowledge’, ‘ancestral wisdom’.In the late twentieth century, the same ideas are re-incarnated as ‘knowledge’.Indigenous knowledge has always served as a foil for concepts of Western rationality. Typologies used to characterize such knowledge vary wildly across time and space. The indigenous knowledge that was known under names like ‘primitive superstition’, ‘savage nobility’, ‘empirical practical knowledge’ and ‘ancestral wisdom’ reflect more about the history of Western ideology than about ways of apprehending the world. Recently, in the late twentieth century, the same ideas are reincarnated as knowledge. The ideas once dismissed as ‘animistic’ are now transformed to iconic status as ‘indigenous science’, however again as a part of a larger classificatory system, as TEK” (Cruikshank 1998: 49-50).
9 Cruikshank (1998) demonstrates different strands of discussion of indigenous knowledge: resource management and sustainable development;indigenous organisations negotiating with different levels of state governmentOverwhelming impression is that indigenousknowledge is essentially uncomplicated, thatacquiring it is a classification exercise.Cruikshank demonstrates different strands of discussion of indigenous knowledge:a growing literature on themes of resource management and sustainable development;much environmental writing looks at the First Nations for alternative ways of thinking about environment;indigenous organizations negotiating with different levels of state government are producing their own materials on environmental issues.The overwhelming impression is that indigenous knowledge is essentially uncomplicated, that acquiring it is primarily a technocratic classification exercise, and that managers are the ones best equipped to identify the appropriate parameters and categories.”
10 Two axioms:Native Americans lived in harmony with nature before arrival of Europeans.This view ignores native perception of animals as renewable resource. Ignores opportunistic strategies.If people in indigenous societies have respectful attitude toward the environment, and behave accordingly. Romanticism. Overly simple understanding of the relation between ideology, norms, and behaviour.Cruikshank argues that the globalizing environmental narratives are the latest version of a modernism whereby we universalise our concerns and project them onto others. Two axioms underlie juxtapositions of the past with contemporary environmental mayhem. One is the axiom that Native Americans lived in harmony with nature before arrival of Europeans. Such creative reconstruction ignores the extensive work by scholars documenting worldviews that animals are infinitely renewable rather than inevitably scarce, that they give themselves to hunters, with whom they share a complex world and to whom they are bound by ties of kinship and reciprocity. It further ignores research demonstrating that indigenous hunters often had to rely on opportunistic strategies – to take what they could when they could in order to survive. Second axiom postulates that if people in a particular society express respectful attitudes toward the environment, they will inevitably behave circumspectly toward it. But this view, too, errs on the side of romanticism and an overly simple understanding of the relation between ideology, norms, and behaviour.
11 Paul Nadasdy: The Politics of TEK The initial idea was: to collect and document traditional ecological knowledge and integrate it with scientific knowledge of the environment.But little success to integrate traditional and scientific knowledge. Why?The past decade and a half there has been an explosion in the number of workshops, conferences etc on TEK.The pricipal objective of this activity is to ‘collect and document’ traditional ecological knowledge and to integrate it with scientific knowledge of the environment. However, as Nadasdy mentions, there has been so little success to integrate traditional and scinetific knowledge despite the duration, intensity, and interdisciplinary nature of the effort. Why? asks Nadasdy.
12 Traditional knowledge Qualitative Intuitive Holistic Oral Scientific knowledgeQuantitativeAnalyticalReductionistLiterateSome might argue that it is because two types of knowledge are incommnsurable. Traditional knowledge is assumed to be qualitative, intuitive, holistic, and oral, whereas science is seen as quantitative, analytical, reductionist, and literate. However, this approach views the present lack of progress towards integration as resulting from the complexity of these problems and the difficulty in developing strategies and methologies, is inadequate as it ignores the political dimensions of the issue of knowledge integration.
13 What are the reasons then? TEK became a politically expedient thing Terms like ‘sustainable development’, ‘ecological crisis’ do not have analogues in Native American languages. Institutionalising such official language will set bad precedents of redefining Native cultures through Western cultures. Morrow and Hensel: term ‘traditional’.Knowledge. Traditional knowledge is for aboriginal people is a way of life.Firstly, Nadasdy reckons that TEK became a political expedient thing to do. A number of First Nations people expressed their frustration that many scientists and managers have no real intention to integrate traditional knowledge with science, so First Nations people view most ‘official’ talk about TEK as insincere or even as willful obfuscation.Secondly, as Phyllis Morrow and Chase Hensel have reported from Alaska, terms like “comanagement”, “sustainable development”, “ecological crisis”, and tradition are highly negotiable and have no analogues in Native American languages. To suggest that they are somehow bridging concepts, i.e. easily translatable may impose control over the dialogue and restrict the range of ways of discussing these issues. Institutionalising such official language will set bad precedents of redefining Native cultures through Western categories” (Cruikshank 1998: 58). Morrow and Hensel speak about the term ‘traditional’ and illustrate with an a case where two Yupik boys were charged with shooting a muskox out of season. Muskoxen, rarely found in that place, so the boys consulted the elders who advised them to shoot the animal because it had offered itself to them and might be offended if they did not. The boys shot the animal and the meat was distributed in a culturally accepted manner. Yet, the judge rejected a defence based on ‘customary and traditioonal’ and ruled against the boys on the ground sthat muskoxen are not traditional game animals in the area.Thirdly, there is a problem with the word knowledge. The goal of most TEK research is to collectr and utilise traditional knowledge. Yet, aboridginal people themselves often say that traditional knowledge is not so much knowledge as it is a way of life.
14 4. Compartmentalisation of TEK 4. Compartmentalisation of TEK. Western science is compartmentalised: social science, natural science, pure science, applied etc. Forestry expert, water expert, mining expert. But knowledge in the bush has to be holistic, not separated.5. Distillation of TEK. Knowledge has to be converted into numbers and should be expressed numerically.But most importantly, Nadasdy, states, the problem of impossibility to bring two knolwedges together is in compartmentalisation and distillation of TEK. Scientific Knowledge and practice are compartmentalised. Western science is compartmentalised generally. There are ‘social sciences’, natural science, pure scince, applied science and so on and each of them is subdivided into a whole array of disciplines and subdisciplines which are quite distinct from one another both intellectually and socially. An experienced hunter complained to Nadasdy that government officials cann not effectively manage wildlife. The government has forestry experst, water experts, mining experts and each of them know anything outside of their own speciality. He contrasted it to his own knowledge of the land, where survival in the bush depends on one’s knwoledge of the environment as a whole. Much emphasis is done on holistic nature of TEK, yet despite all this, one continually comes across TEK on Beluga whales, or TEK on Arctic Tundra Caribou.Distillation of TEK before it could be incorporated into the institutional framework of scientific resource management. That is that the knowledge of local people has to be converted into numbers and should be expressed numerically. One hunter expressed his frustration:The sheep don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t create on a piece of paper in somebody’s office. They are born, raised out there in the wild. That’s where they are born, that’s where they die. They don’t happen in somebody’s office. It doesn’t matter how many numbers you put on that piece of paper; out there it is still the same.Many of the local people say that there is no use of the information that has been generated by the scientists, as all the volumes with data are stading on the shelves without being used much.
15 What constitutes knowledge? “Knowledge in hunting societies is encoded at critical points in a belief system, sustained over centuries, that conceptualises animals and humans as sharing a common world and their connections as mutually sustaining. When it becomes incorporated into a Western framework, it is reconstituted to formalize relationships between people and becomes embedded in hierarchy and inequality…Knowledge is not amenable to direct questions, nor can it be easily formulated as a set of rules. It must be demonstrated so that others can see how it is used in practice. Such knowledge is a relational concept, more like a verb than a noun, more process than product, and it can easily be construed as a written, formally encoded, reified product” (Cruikshank 1998: 69-70).What constitutes knowledge? These are familiar debates, says Cruikshank, due to our “tendency to fragment understanding of the world into categories such like nature or culture, and about our human inclination to hold the world together through narrative story-telling...Our flawed categorical distinction between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ is a by-product of our own arbitrary classification systems…Attempts to sweep indigenous knowledge into outmoded categories seems seriously defective.Anthropology’s main contribution has been to formulate this in a holistic sense, emphasizing connections between social worlds and ideas.
16 “Knowing is a concept which is not codified but is demonstrated by example” (Anderson 2000: 117). A person performing his/her knowledge competently earns respect and gains status.In learning process – usurpation of tasks is humiliating, but also removes opportunity to demonstrate knowledge.This leads us to Anderson’s concept of knowing. “Knowing is a concept which is not codified but is demonstrated by example” (Anderson 2000: 117). The example that Anderson brings about how he was taught to recognize different woods by smelling and tasting. Thus knowledge can be demonstrated. “A competent performance of one’s knowledge earns a person respect, establishes one’s status, but also entitles one to enter into a relationship with the land as an independent and competent person” (Anderson 2000: 118). Usurpation of tasks is one of the elements of Evenki pedagogy, that is humiliating but also removes an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge.
17 Knowledge involves an interpersonal relationship with animals Knowledge involves an interpersonal relationship with animals. Kwon (1993): hunters do not reveal their hunting intentions so that not to scare the animals.Knowledge of hunting is also in skilled concealment of human qualities. “To learn to hunt you have to learn from a cunning fox” (Kwon 1993: 121).Knowledge goes beyond specific skills and learning about wood, water, etc. It also presupposes interpersonal relationship with animals. The wild geese are reputed to have a supernatural sensitivity to people. Hunters when going for a hunt are not to boast or prepare for hunting, even sharpening knife in preparation. Kwon (1993): “Dikie [reindeer] do not see. They smell. To become a pastukh [herder] you have to hear the wind and smell the reindeer”.Kwon (1998) warns us from making mistakes by translating complex non-predatory concepts of hunting of Orochon in Siberia into the language of Western concepts of predation. In his article Kwon elaborates into how knowledge of hunting is constituted by skilled concealment of human qualities. That is refraining from using soaps and spices and from having sex, and not talking about hunting. In fact all hunting is done in silence. The Orochon hunters say: “ To learn to hunt you have to learn from a cunning fox”. Knowledge is taken from environment and can not be learned formally, in fact it can be passed onto a novice through many various ways, including material, for example a saddle in Kwon’s description. “When the novice becomes mature, he inherits a saddle through which he will assimilate his ancestral knowledge into his own experience. Like his predecessors, he will become competent not only in the practical activity of stalking game but also in the narrative art of hunting. By means of the saddle, he will bring his ancestor’s knowledge to his hunting activity, deliver more hunting stories and will eventually be able to pass on all his knowledge and stories to the next generation.” (Kwon 1998: 121).
18 Fundamental difference: - Western tradition is preoccupied with analytic and theoretical ways of knowing, episteme, devaluing and misrepresenting practical and contextual knowledge.-But: knowledge means engagement in a skilful act. Rosaldo (1987) example of the basketball game.To reduce the novice to an imitator of technique would leave the fundamental question as to how a body of cultural knowledge is constructed. Western tradition is preoccupied with analytic and theoretical ways of knowing, episteme, devaluing and misrepresenting practical and contextual knowledge. The normative view misconstrues the essence of the lived-in world, failing to capture what it means to engage in a skilful act, the ‘feel’ for the game. Rosaldo (1987) brings an example of basketball. Where the difference would be in the third kind of knowledge, conveying the essence of the game from the point of view of the player.
19 Can TEK and science be integrated? Solution: devolution of control over local land and resources to aboriginal communitiesAs long as ultimate decisions over the land are held in remote centres, local ways of life will continue to be undervalued or ignored.Scientist would not define and drive the process of resource management but would act as a resource.So what is the solution then? Nadasdy replies that the devolution of control over local land and resources to aboriginal communities themselves, including control over wildlife and all forms of development would be a solution. As long as ultimate decisions making power over the land is held in distant administrative centres, local ways of life will continue to be undervalued or ignored in favour of the illusion of scientific universality. Thus, scientist would not longer define and drive the process of resource management, but would act as a resource, providing communities-upon their request-with a perspective on the environment that, by virtue of its greater scope for large-scale comparison, would help local people to deal with larger regional or global issues that cannot be well understood from a purely local perspective.
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