African Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Sustainable Development: Challenges and Prospects
This book is an important contribution to social science, specifically to the field of history and politics of knowledge production. It also importantly addresses a number of specialised professional fields pinpointing critical perspectives on the contributions of African indigenous knowledge to the knowledge terrain. Its strength lies in that it crucially deals with the politics of knowledge generation. Colonialism and its subsequent modern forms (such as imperialism, apartheid in South Africa, and economic globalisation) have not been the only tools of unfair competition and the sustaining of unhealthy social inequalities. The maintenance of unequal knowledge relationships, a situation in which careful censoring of formal knowledge takes place is just as important. The continuation, of the hegemony of knowledge produced in and for the Western world serves to not only project a powerful image of the Northern hemisphere over the rest of the World, but also monopolises science. In effect, this position and its accompanying practices marginalise and in fact downgrade the role of indigenous knowledge in scientific contributions. In this sense, it is a continuation of colonising knowledge and practices. Contrary to this position and its practices, we need to acknowledge that “Indigenous knowledges”, is actually the basis of all scholarship. How African indigenous knowledge could develop in tandem with modernisation during the periods of colonisation and apartheid, were stifled and positively restricted by colonisation, underdevelopment and apartheid. It was marginalised and codified as a priori or primordial knowledge with its own limitations and regarded as not dynamic and relevant. The heydays of the critique of “the invention of tradition” also confused the fact that tradition itself is invented with the façade that “Africa was invented” by its colonisers. Externalising colonising forces represented and invented a subdued and static Africa instead of revealing the dynamic, developmental and life-sustaining traditions and knowledges. To this day African indigenous knowledge is made to be apologetic for its existence, while it constitutes the cultural substratum for all Africans. The significance of a book such as this is that it demonstrates this fact – the substance of African indigenous knowledge – insists that such knowledge constitutes the foundations of knowledge for Africans, that African indigenous knowledge constitutes an indispensable component of all knowledge and skills generated and imparted in Africa. It courageously outlines and maps the potential of such an approach in the knowledge domain and outlines future trends and possibilities. It is then evident that this book breaks through the restrictions of existing codifications of African indigenous knowledge from outside. While demonstrating that there is indeed an African indigenous knowledge and that it is multifaceted and dynamic, it also hints by way of many loops in the articles, at the need for on-going and further research. Such research will continue to break through “system exclusionist” perceptions. The findings and future research trends suggested attest to the fact that local knowledge has already influenced science, and that there are multiple needs for the appropriate education and training of students to fulfil their roles in our developmental state in a wide variety of careers and over a wide front of positions in governance and the private sector. The significance of indigenous knowledge also needs to impact on people’s choices of methodologies for specific research projects. Researchers engage people with specific understandings and needs in context specific social situations. Scientific projects and researchers should employ reflexive vigilance with regard to their censoring of indigenous knowledge – as if it does not exist, and as if it does not constitute the primary cultural formations of people researched in specific circumstances. Researchers should rather overtly acknowledge context and local knowledge. It should become a primary feature of research-based knowledge generation in, with and by local communities. It is such work that will move scholarship towards useful and relevant knowledge relationships, dismantle traditional scientific hegemonies, and establish useful conversations across the diverse regions in Africa and around the globe. Indications arising from the work of the IKS Centre of Excellence suggest that we need to start with breaking the cycle of elitism into which knowledge generation is trapped. The silenced knowledges and women’s voices need to be heard and brought to the centre of curriculum development and education and training. We need more locally produced scholarship, with an eye to educating and training graduates for our own local markets. Graduates need to serve real-life local people not some imagined community in the Western world. Similarly, curricula for professional vocations and occupations are ethically bound to acknowledge the local base for scientific theorisation and knowledge generation. The continuation of research presented in African Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Sustainable Development: Challenges and Prospects will liberate humanity from the conundrum of unequal knowledge relationships which are the basis of unequal socio-economic development.