Indigenous knowledges and sustainable development
This panel seeks to explore the relationships between indigenous knowledges and political ecology.
Convenors: Maren Seehawer, Anders Breidlid and Roy Krøvel (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences).
International legislation recognizes indigenous peoples as having specific rights based on historical ties to a particular territory (in addition to being cultural or historical distinctive from other populations that are often politically dominant). Having a particular relationship with a territory plays a vital role in many definitions of “indigenous”, including self-definitions. It is acknowledged that not everybody would agree that there is necessarily a one- to- one relationship between indigenous peoples and indigenous knowledges.
International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) sees “Indigenous knowledge” as the basis for local-level decision-making in many rural communities. Dei and Asgharzadeh (2006) argue that indigenous knowledges are ‘…a way of knowing developed by local/indigenous peoples over generations as a result of sustained occupation of or attachment to a place, location, or space with the result that such occupancy allows peoples/communities to develop a perfect understanding of the relationship of their communities to their surrounding natural and social environments.’
A perceived particular connectedness and often religious/sacred relationship to territory, nature and traditional forms of local-level decision-making has made political struggles of indigenous peoples inspiring for many political ecologists. In The Art of not Being Governed, Scott (2009) explains how ethnic minorities in Southeast Asia have intentionally withdrawn into deliberate and reactive statelessness to enhance self-determination and self-governance.
According to Jatitotodom , “Indigenous political ecology” focuses on “indigenous governance” described by such terms as sovereignty, self-determination and human rights. “Researchers must be attentive to the recognition (or lack) of tribal sovereignty in environmental decision-making” (Jahat Jatitotodom in The International Handbook of Political Ecology, p. 569).
However, political ecologists have also warned against essentialist understandings of the term “indigenous”. Essentialized stereotyped images of the noble and environmentally correct savage, undermines its aim, “which was to realize the political agency of indigenous peoples” (Hvalkof, S. in Reimagining Political Ecology, page 196).
Admittedly, there are many meaning(s) of the terms “indigenous” and “indigenous knowledges”. According to Breidlid, for instance, “(w)hat should be emphasised is the significance of colonial domination by the West” (Breidlid, 2013). Being indigenous means experiencing a social, cultural, political and ontological domination by a hegemonic form of western thought and social organisation that orients itself toward a particular version of modernity (Breidlid 2012). According to Breidlid indigenous knowledges resist domination through “a self-identification, which most likely attempts to use cultural and historical differences as referents”. Indigenous knowledges are, in contrast to Western knowledge, characterized as specific to a group and location, developed and tested practically over a long period of time, oral, open to intuition and spirituality, holistic, and so forth.
Krøvel, while accepting the critiques of essentialism, believes terms such as “indigenous” and “indigenous knowledges” are best employed to describe and to support maximum classless diversity in human-nature (including humans as nature) relationships and should therefore not be extended to encompass all or most forms of non-western thought.
We invite papers that deal with “indigenous knowledges” and “political ecology” from a variety of perspectives. Epistemologies and knowledges are here used in the plural to denote the multiplicity of indigenous epistemologies/knowledges. We invite papers on topics such as (but not limited to):
- Ecology and indigenous education
- Environmental sciences and indigenous sciences/ knowledges/epistemologies.
- Indigenous perceptions of the sacred of the earth compared to Western rationalist ecological thinking
- Indigenous autonomy/self-determination and ecology
- Political agency of indigenous peoples
- Indigenous governance and political ecology
- Political ecology and local-level decision-making
- Indigenous struggles and exploitation of natural resources