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Local knowledge and comparative scientific traditions

Abstract

This article argues that all knowledge is inherently local and that localness provides the basis for comparison between indigenous scientific traditions or knowledge production systems. As collective bodies of knowledge, many of the significant differences between knowledge production systems lie in the work involved in creating assemblages from differing practices. Much of the work can be seen in the social strategies and technical devices employed in creating equivalences and connections whereby otherwise heterogeneous and isolated knowledges are enabled to move in space and time from the local site and moment of their production and application to other places and times. In this way contemporary technosciences are compared with the knowledge systems of the medieval mastermasons, the Anasazi, the Inca, the Australian Aborigines and the Pacific navigators.

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To us, science, art, ideology, law, religion, technology, mathematics, even nowadays ethics and epistemology, seem genuine enough genres of cultural expression to lead us to ask (and ask and ask) to what degree other peoples possess them and to the degree they do possess them, what form do they take, and given the form they take, what light has that to shed on our own versions of them.

–Geertz 1983, 92

He is currently writing a book bringing togther his work on the sociology of science, maps and indigenous knowledge systems tenatively titledPutting on the Motley: Assembling Messy Practices and Making Knowledge.

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Turnbull, D. Local knowledge and comparative scientific traditions. Knowledge and Policy 6, 29–54 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02696281

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Keywords

  • Local Knowledge
  • Technical Device
  • Western Science
  • Dead Reckoning
  • Social Strategy