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Sillitoe - Chapter 07

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Globalisation and the Construction of Western and Non-Western Knowledge

Anthropological interest in non-Western knowledge dates from the very beginning of the discipline. Early anthropologists interested in the so-called 'savage' or 'primitive' mind asked, in effect: do non-Western peoples think differently from Western peoples and, if so, how? In the years since, this question has periodically surfaced, been critiqued, submerged and reappeared. A recent incarnation — and one of particular importance to the reigning paradigms of global conservation and development — involves non-Western, indigenous environmental knowledge.

Anthropological interest in indigenous systems of resource management also dates back to the early years of the discipline, and especially flourished with the rise of ethnoecology in the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, anthropologists began to invoke indigenous systems of knowledge and practice to critique the dominant development paradigm and its privileging of extra-local knowledge. As the sustainability of many resource-use systems built on the Western scientific paradigm became increasingly suspect, the pervasive deprecation of non-Western resource management was replaced, even among some practitioners in conservation and development, by valorisation.1 Whereas this about-face represented a useful correction to earlier views, the underlying division between Western and non-Western systems has come increasingly to be seen as problematic theoretically (Agrawal 1995; Dove 2000).

Globalisation and the Construction of Western and Non-Western KnowledgeMichael R. Dove, Daniel S. Smith, Marina T. Campos, Andrew S. Mathews, Anne Rademacher, Steve Rhee and Laura M. YoderAnthropological interest in non-Western knowledge dates from t
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