On Indigenous knowledge


This weekend I started reading the book “Indigenous Knowledge and Education in Africa” by Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu. Chika was a guest on experimentQ podcast (episode below). I have great respect for her work to bring justice to indigenous knowledge the communities that hold these knowledge systems. On top, she made her book freely available.

I needed to stop at chapter 2 because the book got fillet with bookmarks and highlights which need to process for a bit. I was inspired by the a few paragraphs I want to share:

“The widely accepted idea that a single culture’s worldview holds true for the rest of the world has been described as a politically motivated propaganda for Europe’s imperial ambitions, which has no proven intellectual basis. Oguamanam (2006, 19) describes “the Western culture as a local tradition, which has been spread worldwide through intellectual colonization.”

The author refers to the work of Chidi Oguamanam who describes present day comparisons between two major knowledge systems - western vs indigenous.

Evaluating indigenous knowledge in comparison to Western science, according to Oguamanam (2006, 17), presupposes an “overarching comparator in the form of universal reason or science, which is ontologically privileged.” Such comparison places Western science in a higher pedestal as a superior form of knowledge, which other knowledge forms must seek to measure up to. The comparison between Western and indigenous knowledge is not necessary, as the baseline of universal reason exist in all traditions, enforced by shared human economic need and cognitive processes, although “activated and expressed in different cultural contexts”

And finally, the differences:

1. The transmission of indigenous knowledge is mostly orally based, that is, through folklores and legend, or through imitation and demonstrations. Western science transmits knowledge through writing.

2. Indigenous knowledge is gained by observing and participating in simulations, real-life experiences and trial and error. Western knowledge is taught and imbibed in abstraction.

3. Indigenous knowledge is founded on the spiritual; the notion that the world and its components have life force and are infused with spirit, and this includes both the animate and inanimate objects such as fire and trees. Western knowledge severs the animate from the inanimate and treats all as physical entities.

4. Indigenous knowledge views the world as interrelated; it does not necessarily subordinate all other life forms to mankind as they are all interrelated and interdependent parts of one ecosystem. Western science views mankind as superior to nature and “authorized” to exploit it maximally.

5. Indigenous knowledge is integrative and holistic in nature, rooted in a culture of kinship between the natural and supernatural. Western science is “reductionist and fragmentary, reducing and delineating boundaries to the extent that every relationship is treated as a distinct whole.”

6. Indigenous knowledge values intuition, emphasizes emotional involvement and subjective certainty in perception. Western science thrives on logic and analysis, abstracted from the observer, and the replication of measurement to determine results.

7. Indigenous knowledge is based on a long period of close interactions with the natural environment and phenomena. Western knowledge thrives on the mathematical and quantitative

Interesting reading journey.