Much recent writing in the social sciences - boosted by inter alia substantial
funding programmes and valid questions concerning the relationship between
identity politics, knowledge and power - have applauded the formulation of
and research into various forms of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (lKS).
This interest in and advocacy for IKS, at times formulated in the context of
debates on postcolonial identity as an alternative to paradigms constructed on
particular Western-scientific assumptions, has run parallel to a more general
shift in thinking about development initiatives as requiring participatory
research methodologies and bottom-up implementation strategies. Within
development studies and anthropology, this shift has stimulated much
research on localised knowledge practices. There is, however, little evidence
that this body of anthropological (and ethnographic) literature has informed
the thinking of those writing and working within the theoretical paradigm of
Indigenous Knowledge Systems (lKS). Making use of a number of recent
ethnographic studies on Africa, the author argues for a theoretical
reconsideration of the IKS paradigm. He highlights important criticisms of the
ways in which many indigenous knowledge systems proponents essentialise
concepts such as knowledge and culture, as well as the methodological
limitations of much current IKS research. It is argued that a focus on the nonverbal
and local knowledge embodied in everyday practices, as well as the
performance of such knowledge, signals not only the limitations of much IKS
research but also redirects our attention to reformulating and invigorating
ideas about much needed local research.
This article was written by Detlev Krige before he joined the University of Pretoria.