Theoretical Issues Related to Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and Mainstream Science: Theoretical Underpinnings
There are intersections between mainstream science and IK. At the core of mainstream science is the desire to negotiate nature through sequential processes such as hypothesis formulation, experiment and prediction. The process of discovery may be intuitive, accidental, conjectural or inspirational but outcomes are often predictable and repeatable. Some scholars argue that the general thrust of mainstream science is to explain regularity and deliberately exclude the unique and intractable. Some argue that knowledge production in mainstream science includes phases of experimentation through trial and error,group consensus or otherwise. But there seems to be obvious areas of non-convergence between IK and mainstream science. IK seems to be relatively less transferable than conventional science, given its holistic socio-cultural and even spiritual dimensions. IK appears to be largely communitarian in terms of discovery and experimentation, and the mode of transmission, and sharing is often collective rather than individualistic. Embedded in the products and services associated with IK are proprietary systems which are often more flexible and negotiable than its western counterpart in some cases, and non-existent in others. The engine of growth and sustenance is neither the market nor the profit motive nor does it coexist happily with large-scale mass production and economies of scale. IK provides excellent examples of community based and community biased research. There is close reliance and dependence on demographic stability and morality. The community is a source of strength for IK in terms of the discovery process and knowledge production. For methodological pluralists such as Paul Feyerabend, by implication, IK is science because it functions. For some 'unified theorists' who believe in the concept of a single science, IK may be construed as scientific in the light of some of the common features associated with the enterprise. One perspective suggests that IK should be integrated into the mainstream whilst another implies that IK is science - separate from the mainstream but equal. We hope to explore some of these contrasting perspectives in the course of discussion.
Relevant empirical examples from African Indigenous Knowledge Systems would be discussed in the course of the paper.
Keywords: Indigenous, Knowledge, Science, Mainstream, Pluralism
Prof. Gloria Emeagwali
Professor of History, History Department, Central Connecticut State University