A Comparative Study of “Indigenous Knowledge” and “Modern Science”

JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A) 25244043


(I) Fieldwork group

In the locations where fieldwork will be conducted for this study, IK and MS are in contact and opposition in contexts of environmental development and resource management. For this reason, the IK addressed in this study (Inuit, Australian Aboriginal, and Bushmen knowledge; fishery technology in Madagascar; traditional water resource management technology in Thailand; ethnobotanical knowledge in India) are in the process of being textualized in documents, as well as quantified and mapped, for the purposes of recording and analysis. Thus, these forms of IK are not disseminated exclusively orally, as has been previously assumed. Moreover, as the Anthropology of Science has demonstrated, MS also relies on oral dissemination, as in the cases of the dissemination of know-how in experimental labs and field studies.

The following three modes of mediation and institutionalization will be used as a common discovery method for the fieldwork in this study to investigate the knowledge dissemination processes of IK and MS, and bridge differences in the historical and current conditions of each location.

(a) Mode of dissemination in communities of practice mediated by speech.
(b) Mode of institutionalization and recording by text.
(c) Mode of recording and analysis by numbers and geometric diagrams.

The study will investigate how these three modes are combined in the process of disseminating knowledge and technology in IK and MS, in the following areas: (1) OMURA will study MS and Inuit knowledge related to wild organism management in the Canadian Far North; (2) SUGAWARA will study MS and Bushmen knowledge related to wildlife and range management in national parks in Botswana; (3) KUBOTA will study MS and Aboriginal knowledge related to land use for mining and tourism development in Aboriginal sacred land in Australia; (4) IIDA will study modern fisheries and the Vezo fishery in the context of ocean resource use in the seas surrounding Madagascar; (5) MORITA will study modern and traditional flood control technologies in the Bangkok area, Thailand; (6) NAKAZORA will study modern botanical knowledge and ethnobotanical knowledge of farmers in the context of a biological resource database project in Uttarakhand state, India; (7) STEWART will study MS and Inuit knowledge related to abnormal weather events related to the effects of global warming in Greenland.

These field investigations will connect their work to the social, economic, and political mechanics of each region, to reveal the following:

(1) The actual state of continuity and discontinuity of IK and MS:
This will be investigated for both IK and MS by looking at how the above three modes co-exist and are mutually intertwined, and reveal commonalities and differences in the combinations of the three modes between IK and MS.

(2) The processes by which knowledge and technology are legitimated and validated:
This will be investigated for both IK and MS to understand what kinds of combinations of the three modes are recognized as valid and legitimate.

(3) The processes by which discontinuities are produced from continuities:
The relationship of the three modes to each of the regions’ social, economic, and political mechanics, and the effect on the combination of the three modes that produce discontinuities between IK and MS will be investigated.

(4) Methods for adjusting IK and MS:
Possible methods will be investigated for adjusting both IK and MS within the knowledge dissemination processes created from the three modes, in ways that draw on their respective advantages.

(II) Theoretical research group

Based on the results of field research at each of the above locations, the Theoretical research group will generate theory from five theoretical standpoints: (1) Anthropological research on Indigenous Knowledge (Omura and Roué); (2) Anthropology of science (Yamazaki and Jensen); (3) STS (Morita); (4) Philosophy of science (Kondo); (5) Interactionism (Sugawara); Information science (MORI). Initially, the group will position the results of the Fieldwork group within the existing research in each discipline. The group will then take the results as a common subject and consider them from each of the theoretical standpoints, while critically analyzing the different standpoints, to generate general theory for reconsidering IK and MS through processes of the dissemination of knowledge and technology. [Page 6] In order to do this, the members and collaborators of the Theoretical research group will individually undertake research on the results of the Fieldwork group in their own disciplines. In order to conduct mutual critique of the different theoretical standpoints, the group will hold biannual group research meetings. It will also hold annual workshops to which foreign researchers will be invited, in order to position the theoretical research in the overseas research context, under the co-ordination of Roué and Jensen.

(III) Synthesis and Feedback between the Fieldwork and Theoretical research groups

At the annual project research meetings, the Fieldwork and Theoretical research groups will each present the results of their work. The Theoretical research group will provide feedback to the Fieldwork group, in order to promote the theorization of the relationship of IK and MS, and clarify the specificities of each individual case.