Systems of Knowledge: Dialogue, Relationships and Process
During the last 20 years, the existence of rich systems of local knowledge, and their vital support to resource use and management regimes, has been demonstrated in a wide range of biological, physical and geographical domains, such as agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry and agroforestry, medicine, and marine science and fisheries.
Local knowledge includes empirical and practical components that are fundamental to sustainable resource management. Among coastal-marine fishers, for example, regular catches and, often, long-term resource sustainment are ensured through the application of knowledge that encompasses empirical information on fish behaviour, marine physical environments, fish habitats and the interactions among ecosystem components, as well as complex fish taxonomies. Local knowledge is therefore an important cultural resource that guides and sustains the operation of customary management systems. The sets of rules that compose a fisheries management system derive directly from local concepts and knowledge of the resources on which the fishery is based.
Beyond the practical and the empirical, it is essential to recognise the fundamental socio-cultural importance of local knowledge to any society. It is through knowledge transmission and socialisation that worldviews are constructed, social institutions perpetuated, customary practices established, and social roles defined. In this manner, local knowledge and its transmission, shape society and culture, and culture and society shape knowledge.
Local knowledge is of great potential practical value. It can provide an important information base for local resources management, especially in the tropics, where conventionally-used data are usually scarce to non-existent, as well as providing a shortcut to pinpoint essential scientific research needs. To be useful for resources management, however, it must be systematically collected and scientifically verified, before being blended with complementary information derived from Western-based sciences.
But local knowledge should not be looked on with only a short-term utilitarian eye. Arguments widely accepted for conserving biodiversity, for example, are also applicable to the intellectual cultural diversity encompassed in local knowledge systems: they should be conserved because their utility may only be revealed at some later date or owing to their intrinsic value as part of the world's global heritage.
At least in cultures with a Western liberal tradition, more than lip-service is now being paid to alternative systems of knowledge. The denigration of alternative knowledge systems as backward, inefficient, inferior, and founded on myth and ignorance has recently begun to change. Many such practices are a logical, sophisticated and often still-evolving adaptation to risk, based on generations of empirical experience and arranged according to principles, philosophies and institutions that are radically different from those prevailing in Western scientific circles, and hence all-but incomprehensible to them. But steadfastly held prejudices remain powerful.
In this presentation I describe the 'design principles' of local knowledge systems, with particular reference to coastal-marine fishing communities, and their social and practical usefulness. I then examine the economic, ideological and institutional factors that combine to perpetuate the marginalisation and neglect of local knowledge, and discuss some of the requirements for applying local knowledge in modern management.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Akimichi, T. (1978) The ecological aspect of Lau (Solomon Islands) ethnoichthyology, Journal of the Polynesian Society 87, 301–326.Google Scholar
- Berger, P., and Luckmann, T. (1984) The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth.Google Scholar
- Berkes, F. (1987) Common-property resource management and Cree Indian fisheries in subarctic Canada, in B.J. McCay and J.M. Acheson (eds), The Question of the Commons: the Culture and Ecology of Communal Resources, The University of Arizona Press, Tuscon, pp. 66–91.Google Scholar
- Borofsky, R. (1987) Making History: Pukapukan and Anthropological Constructions of Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
- Brightman, R.A. (1987) Conservation and resource depletion: the case of the boreal forest Algonquians, in B.J. McCay and J.M. Acheson (eds), The Question of the Commons: the Culture and Ecology of Communal Resources, The University of Arizona Press, Tuscon, pp. 121–141.Google Scholar
- Carrier, J.G. (1987) Marine tenure and conservation in Papua New Guinea: problems of interpretation, in B.J. McCay and J.M. Acheson (eds), The Question of the Commons: the Culture and Ecology of Communal Resources, The University of Arizona Press, Tuscon, pp. 142–167.Google Scholar
- Chapman, M.D. (1985) Environmental influences on the development of traditional conservation in the South Pacific region, Environmental Conservation 12(3), 217–230.Google Scholar
- Cordell, J.C. (1989) Social marginality and sea tenure in Bahia, in J.C. Cordell (ed.), A Sea of Small Boats: Customary Law and Territoriality in the World of Inshore Fishing, Report No. 62, Cultural Survival, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 125–151.Google Scholar
- Dahl, A.L. (1989) Traditional environmental knowledge and resource management in New Caledonia, in R.E. Johannes (ed.), Traditional Ecological Knowledge: A Collection of Essays, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Gland, pp. 45–53.Google Scholar
- Hviding, E. (1988) Marine Tenure and Resource Development in Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands; Traditional Knowledge, Use and Management of Marine Resources, with Implications for Contemporary Development, FFA Report No. 88/35, Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara.Google Scholar
- Ianelli, J. (1992) The status of the Kiribati live-bait fishery, in P. Dalzell (ed.), Papers on Fisheries Science from the Pacific Islands, v. 1, Inshore Fisheries Research Project Technical Document 1, South Pacific Commission, Noumea, pp. 21–32.Google Scholar
- Johannes, R.E. (1978) Reproductive strategies of coastal marine fishes in the tropics, Environmental Biology of Fishes 3, 65–84.Google Scholar
- Johannes, R.E. (1981a) Words of the Lagoon: Fishing and Marine Lore in the Palau District of Micronesia, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.Google Scholar
- Johannes, R.E. (1981b) Working with fishermen to improve coastal tropical fisheries and resource management, Bulletin of Marine Science 31(3), 673–680.Google Scholar
- Johannes, R.E. (1982) Traditional conservation methods and protected marine areas in Oceania, Ambio 11(5), 258–261.Google Scholar
- Johannes, R.E. (ed.) (1989) Traditional Ecological Knowledge: A Collection of Essays, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Gland.Google Scholar
- Johannes, R.E. (1993) Integrating traditional ecological knowledge and management with environmental impact assessment, in J.T. Inglis (ed.), Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Concepts and Cases, Canadian Museum of Nature and IDRC, Ottawa, pp. 33–40.Google Scholar
- Johannes, R.E., and Hviding, E. (1987) Traditional Knowledge of Marine Resources of the People of Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands, with Comments on Marine Conservation, Technical Report to the Commonwealth Science Council, London.Google Scholar
- Johannes, R.E., and MacFarlane, J.W. (1991) Traditional Fishing in the Torres Strait Islands, Australian Department of Primary Industries and Energy, Canberra.Google Scholar
- Johannes, R.E., and Ruddle, K. (1993) Human interactions in tropical coastal and marine areas: lessons from traditional resource use, in A. Price and S. Humphrey (eds) Application of the Biosphere Reserve Concept to Coastal Marine Areas, Gland, IUCN, pp. 19–25.Google Scholar
- Kurien, J. (1990) Collective Action and Common Property Resources Rejuvenation: The Case of Peoples Artificial Reefs in Kerala State, India, Paper presented at the IPFC Symposium Artificial Reefs and Fish Aggregation Devices as Resource Enhancement and Fisheries Management Tools, Colombo.Google Scholar
- Kurien, J. (1991) Ruining the Commons and Responses of the Commoners: Coastal Overfishing and Fishermen's Actions in Kerala State, India, Disscussion Paper 23, UN Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva.Google Scholar
- Lambert, Le Pere (1900) Moeurs et Superstitions des Neo-Calédonniens, Publication No. 14, Société d'Etudes Historiques Nouvelle Calédonie, Nouméa.Google Scholar
- Lingenfelter, S.G. (1975) Yap: Political Leadership and Culture Change in an Island Society, The University Press of Hawaii, Honolulu.Google Scholar
- Malinowski, B. (1935) Coral Gardens and their Magic, George Allen and Unwin, London.Google Scholar
- Morrill, W.T. (1967) Ethnoichthyology of the Cha-cha, Ethnology 6, 405–416.Google Scholar
- Nauen, C. (1989) Women in African artisanal fisheries, NAGA, the ICLARM Quarterly 12(2), 14–15.Google Scholar
- Nietschmann, B. (1985). Torres Strait Islander sea resource management and sea rights, in K. Ruddle and R.E. Johannes (eds), The Traditional Knowledge and Management of Coastal Systems in Asia and the Pacific, UNESCO-ROSTSEA, Jakarta, pp. 125–154.Google Scholar
- Nietschmann, B. (1989) Traditional sea territories, resources and rights in Torres Strait, in J.C. Cordell (ed.), A Sea of Small Boats: Customary Law and Territoriality in the World of Inshore Fishing, Report No. 62, Cultural Survival, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 60–93.Google Scholar
- Norem, R.H., Yoder, R., and Martin, Y. (1989) Indigenous agricultural knowledge and gender issues in Third World agricultural development, in D.M. Warren, L.J. Slikkerveen and S.O. Titilola (eds), Indigenous Knowledge Systems: Implications for Agriculture and International Development, Studies in Technology and Social Change No. 11, Ames: Technology and Social Change Programme, Iowa State University, pp. 91–100.Google Scholar
- Palomares, M.L.D., and Pauly, D. (1992) FISHBASE as a World-Wide Computerised Repository on Ethnoichthyology or Indigenous Knowledge on Fishes, Paper presented at the International Symposium on Indigenous Knowledge (TK) and Sustainable Development, 20–26 September, 1992, International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), Silang, Cavite, Philippines.Google Scholar
- Pauly, D., Palomares, M.L., and Froese, R. (1993) Some prose on a database of indigenous knowledge on fish, Indigenous Knowledge and Development Monitor 1(1), 26–27.Google Scholar
- Polunin, N.V.C. (1984) Do traditional marine ‘reserves’ conserve? A view of Indonesian and Papua New Guinean evidence, in K. Ruddle and T. Akimichi (eds), Maritime Institutions in the Western Pacific, Senri Ethnological Studies, 17, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka., pp. 267–283.Google Scholar
- Quinn, N.J., Kojis, B., and Warphela, P.R. (eds) (1984) Subsistence Fishing Practises of Papua New Guinea, Appropriate Technology Development Institute, Lae.Google Scholar
- Raychaudhuri, B. (1980) The Moon and the Net: Study of a Transient Community of Fishermen at Jambudwip, Anthropological Survey of India, Calcutta.Google Scholar
- Renard, Y., Walters, B., and Smith, A. (1991) Community-Based Approaches to Conservation and Resource Management in the Caribbean, Paper presented at the International Congress for the Conservation of Caribbean Biodiversity, Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, January 14–17.Google Scholar
- Ritchie, J., and Ritchie, J. (1979) Growing up in Polynesia, George Allen and Unwin, Sydney.Google Scholar
- Rubenstien, D. (1978) Native place names and geographic systems of Fais, Caroline Islands, Micronesica 14(1), 69–82.Google Scholar
- Ruddle, K. (1987) Administration and Conflict Management in Japanese Coastal Fisheries, FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 273, FAO, Rome.Google Scholar
- Ruddle, K. (1993) The transmission of traditional ecological knowledge, in J.T. Inglis (ed.), Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Concepts and Cases, Canadian Museum of Nature and IDRC, Ottawa, pp. 17–31.Google Scholar
- Ruddle, K. (1994a) Local knowledge in the future management of inshore tropical marine resources and environments, Nature and Resources 30(1), 28–37.Google Scholar
- Ruddle, K. (1994b) A Guide to the Literature on Traditional Community-Based Fisheries Management Systems in the Tropics of the Asia-Pacific Region, Fisheries Technical Paper, FAO, Rome.Google Scholar
- Ruddle, K. (1994c) Local knowledge in the folk management of fisheries and coastal-marine environments, in C.L. Dyer and J.R. McGoodwin (eds), Folk Management in the World Fisheries, Niwot, Colorado, University Press of Colorado, pp. 161–206.Google Scholar
- Ruddle, K. (1994d) External forces and change in traditional community-based fishery management systems in the Asia-Pacific Region, Maritime Anthropological Studies 6(1–2), 1–37.Google Scholar
- Ruddle, K., and Akimichi, T. (eds) (1984) Maritime Institutions in the Western Pacific, Senri Ethnological Studies, 17, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka.Google Scholar
- Ruddle, K., and Akimichi, T. (1989) Sea tenure in Japan and the south-western Ryukyus, in J.C. Cordell (ed.), A Sea of Small Boats: Customary law and territoriality in the World of Inshore Fishing, Report No. 62, Cultural Survival, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 337–370.Google Scholar
- Ruddle, K., and Chesterfield, R.A. (1977) Education for traditional food procurement in the Orinoco Delta, Ibero-Americana 53, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.Google Scholar
- Ruttley, H.L. (1987) Revision of the Fisheries Legislation in Solomon Islands: Analysis of Replies to a Questionnaire on Customary Fishing Rights in the Solomon Islands, Fisheries Law Advisory Programme, Western Pacific and South China Region, FAO, Rome.Google Scholar
- Sanjeeva Raj, P.T. (1990) Mapping the Inshore Floor of India. Seafood Export Journal, 2, 1–4.Google Scholar
- Slikkerveer, L.J. (1989) Changing values and attitudes of social and natural scientists towards indigenous peoples and their knowledge systems, in D.M. Warren, L.J. Slikkerveer and S.O. Titilola (eds), Indigenous Knowledge Systems: Implications for Agriculture and International Development, Studies in Technology and Social Change No. 11, Ames: Technology and Social Change Programme, Iowa State University, pp. 121–137.Google Scholar
- Thrupp, L.A. (1988) The Political Ecology of Pesticide Use in Developing Countries: Dilemmas in the Banana Sector of Costa Rica, Ph.D. diss., Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton.Google Scholar
- Toloa, F., Gillett, R., and Pelasio, M. (1991) Traditional Marine Conservation in Tokelau, Paper presented to the South Pacific Commission, 23rd Regional Technical Meeting on Fisheries, Noumea, New Caledonia, 5–9 August.Google Scholar
- Townsend, R., and Wilson, J.A. (1987) An economic view of the tragedy of the commons, in B.J. McCay and J.M. Acheson (eds), The Question of the Commons: the Culture and Ecology of Communal Resources, The University of Arizona Press, Tuscon, pp. 327–343.Google Scholar
- Warren, C.A.B. (1988) Gender Issues in Field Research, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, Ca.Google Scholar
- Warren, D.M. (1989) The impact of nineteenth century social science in establishing negative values and attitudes towards indigenous knowledge systems, in D.M. Warren, L.J. Slikkerveer and S.O. Titilola (eds), Indigenous Knowledge Systems: Implications for Agriculture and International Development, Studies in Technology and Social Change No. 11, Ames: Technology and Social Change Programme, Iowa State University, pp. 171–183.Google Scholar