A discussion of the problems and prospects for more effectively connecting the local to the global in development contexts, through a review of the so-called indigenous knowledge research initiative.
Indigenous knowledge (IK) research has been seeking for some years to improve connections between the local and global in development contexts or, in the words of the EASA 2006 conference, to promote the link between global interchange and local creativity. But the IK initiative has not yielded the dividends that some of us hoped for and it is time, after two or more decades of effort, to review progress. EASA 2006 offers an appropriate moment to do so, for IK was the topic of a previous EASA workshop, eight years ago in Frankfurt. <br/>There are several strands to the IK initiative. Researchers from a range of disciplines are contributing (not only from social sciences but from natural sciences such as agriculture, forestry, medicine and architecture), promoting an exciting context for interdisciplinary work. Increasingly, indigenous organisations and activists (including self-styled indigenous academics) are presenting a coherent opposition to capitalist hegemony. Some advances are being made on the methodological front, albeit largely on the coat tails of the participatory movement. <br/>Despite these emerging opportunities, development actors have been slow to adopt approaches anchored in IK. An attempt to identify common problems may help explain why. The unspoken premises of development that shape the agendas of development agencies, bilateral and multilateral, are an issue. To lift populations out of poverty, they continue to impose a framework that subordinates local knowledge, practices and society to global science, technology and the market. If we wish to contribute something practical to efforts to relieve poverty, how might we take the opportunity of working from within, to devise strategies that demonstrate other viable views of development? It is only in this way that the true potential and insights of IK might come into their own.