Indigenous Knowledge Discourses in Africa: At the Intersection of Culture, Politics, and Information Science

Indigenous Knowledge Discourses in Africa: At the Intersection of Culture, Politics, and Information Science

Mehluli Masuku (National University of Science and Technology, Zimbabwe)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0423-9.ch025

Abstract

Since around the 1980s, the aspect of indigenous knowledge (IK) has attracted the attention of a number of experts, including culturists, politicians and information scientists. This has seen the mushrooming of literature on the subject matter from the afore-mentioned practitioners and specialists, with each discipline witnessing a certain “discourse”. This has also witnessed almost everyone in these disciplines glorifying African IK. Against this background, this chapter discusses the IK discourses in Africa, highlighting some of the significant trends and relationships among practitioners and scholars in the fields of culture, politics and information science that are driven by shared philosophies of IK. This paper is theoretical in nature and draws from the literature on IK to explain and demonstrate what the author calls the “IK discourses and “IK frenzy”, and explains the point of intersection by culturists, politicians and information science practitioners.
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Background

Since around the 1980s, the aspect of indigenous knowledge (IK) has attracted the attention of information scientists, cultural experts as well as politicians among others. Indeed, as Mapira and Mazambara (2013, p.90) explained, the post-colonial era has witnessed a growing interest in the restoration of what they call “lost or dying IKS in Africa.” To cite the World Bank (2002, p. 1), “indigenous knowledge now appears to be a hot topic” In fact, IK, because of its ability to cut across disciplines, has been described by Ngulube and Onyancha (2011, p. 130) as being “cross-disciplinary, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary.” Thus, it depicts some kind of “a holistic way of life that may not be compartmentalised into one or two disciplines.” (Ngulube and Onyancha, 2011, p. 130). This has seen the mushrooming of literature, on the subject matter in Africa, from the afore-mentioned disciplines and others, with each discipline witnessing a specific “discourse”. Thus, there has been an emerging bias towards this IK in Africa, with almost some kind of a consensus on the presumed importance of this knowledge. To cite Viriri (2009):

A number of African countries that view indigenous knowledge as valuable for new biological and ecological insights, natural resource management, conservation education, protected areas, and environment assessment have made tremendous inroads in economic reforms, improving macro-economic management, liberalising markets and trade, and widening the space for private sector activity. (pp. 132-133)

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