Introduction to Different Ways of Knowing

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The ways of knowing of indigenous Africans and westerners are described. I look at the problem of how westerners discredit the knowledge system of others. I consider the effect of the dominance of the western way of knowing imposed on Africa during the colonial period.

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Kolguev Island in the Russian Arctic has a unique tundra ecosystem and an indigenous Nenets population whose livelihood is traditionally based on reindeer herding. The Nenets faced a major crisis in 2013–2014 when the reindeer population collapsed. Widely different explanations for this collapse were put forward. This lack of a shared perspective points at the failure of genuine joint knowledge production (JKP) in the island’s UNEP–GEF’s ECORA project (2004–2009). The ECORA project aimed to achieve integrated ecosystem management by stimulating dialog and mutual learning among indigenous people, state agencies, and scientists. This paper analyses the failure of ECORA’s JKP, using a recently developed framework of conditions for successful JKP. The results suggest that ECORA met none of these conditions. It failed at bringing the scientific and indigenous knowledge systems together, and the produced knowledge did not resonate with indigenous people’s perception of living in Kolguev.
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This article provides a guided tour through three diverse cultural ways of understanding nature: an Indigenous way (with a focus on Indigenous nations in North America), a neo-indigenous way (a concept proposed to recognize many Asian nations’ unique ways of knowing nature; in this case, Japan), and a Euro-American scientific way. An exploration of these three ways of knowing unfolds in a developmental way such that some key terms change to become more authentic terms that better represent each culture’s collective, yet heterogeneous, worldview, metaphysics, epistemology, and values. For example, the three ways of understanding nature are eventually described as Indigenous ways of living in nature, a Japanese way of knowing seigyo-shizen, and Eurocentric sciences (plural). Characteristics of a postcolonial or anti-hegemonic discourse are suggested for science education, but some inherent difficulties with this discourse are also noted.
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