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The tensions between indigenous knowledge and western science

Abstract

In their paper Ramos de Robles, Gariby-Chávez and Curiel-Ballesteros offer that indigenous traditional knowledge (IK) concerning edible wild plants in Mexico, part of the historic culture, is fading through successive generations. Furthermore, they argue that a return to this knowledge which proved valuable for many ancestors is desperately needed in modern times. I agree that this deficit is alarming and wish to add to the discourse by problematizing the tensions between IK and western science (WS). While attempts to consider IK in WS have been documented in the literature, especially with respect to environmental concerns, the fear is that IK will be subsumed under WS, and considered only to the degree that the former confirms the latter. I urge for the consideration of both ways of knowing if we are to advance on the problems and issues we have created.

Resumen

En su artículo, Ramos de Robles, Gariby-Chávez y Curiel-Ballesteros plantean que el conocimiento tradicional indígena (IK) sobre plantas silvestres comestibles en México, parte de la cultura histórica, se está desvaneciendo a través de generaciones sucesivas. Además, argumentan que un retorno a este conocimiento que resultó valioso para muchos antepasados sería necesario en los tiempos modernos. Estoy de acuerdo en que este déficit es alarmante y deseo incrementar este discurso al problematizar las tensiones entre IK y la ciencia occidental (WS). Si bien los intentos de considerar el IK dentro del WS se han documentado en la literatura, especialmente con respecto a las preocupaciones ambientales, el temor es que el IK se subsumirá bajo la WS, y se considere solo en la medida en que el primero confirme el último. Insisto la consideración de ambas formas de saber si es que queremos avanzar en la solución de los problemas; problemas que nosotros mismos hemos creado.

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Correspondence to Michael W. Dentzau.

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Lead Editor: Alejandro J. Gallard M.

This review essay addresses issues raised in Silvia Lizette Ramos de Robles, María Guadalupe Garibay-Chávez, and Arturo Curiel-Ballesteros paper entitled: Identification, collection and consumption of weeds and wild vegetables in Mexican communities: institutionalized local ancestral indigenous knowledge as ecological literacy, place and identity. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-017-9852-y.

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Dentzau, M.W. The tensions between indigenous knowledge and western science. Cult Stud of Sci Educ 14, 1031–1036 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-018-9903-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-018-9903-z

Keywords

  • Indigenous traditional knowledge
  • Western science
  • Science education