Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS), Kyoto University, Japan
The aim of this project is to examine sites in which local knowledge is being continually developed by people living in contemporary Africa. The dynamics of local knowledge formation will be elucidated through fieldwork from an area studies perspective. Furthermore, attention will be focused on the practice of using local knowledge to improve living conditions (positive practice), with an attempt to understand its meaning within a “glocal” (global and local) context.
Local knowledge is practical, empirical knowledge that is formulated through daily interactions between people and the surrounding socio-natural milieu. Because this type of knowledge cannot be extracted as a substance, this research will focus on the presentation of knowledge (structure, function, and their dynamics) as it appears in each aspect by dealing with its formulation and practice. The main subjects of this analysis are the daily actions (speech and action) carried out within a person’s livelihood and things related to them.
To date, research conducted in Africa has dealt with two areas of knowledge. In the fields of development studies and applied anthropology, knowledge of the intervention (e.g., agricultural practice, environmental conservation, resource conservation, and social grouping and norms) has been examined in terms of its utilization for development (Bicker et al., 2004). In contrast, the field of cognitive anthropology has presupposed that folk knowledge reflects cultural systems, and thus research topics have been limited to classification systems of flora, fauna, and colors. This reflects a type of knowledge that permits re-verification (Berlin, 1973; Fukui, 1979; Sanga and Ortalli, 2004).
Although the former approach examines the significance of practical knowledge and the latter searches for the universality of cognitive aspects, these two approaches are not in conflict. In fact, through each field’s academic reflection and prospects, they have been characterized as having complementary perspectives. The methodologies involved also share common features (Sillitoe et al., 2005).
To understand local knowledge, this study will begin by sampling from the various conflicting views that have been presented in previous developmental and cognitive anthropology studies. More specifically, it is important to examine the relationships between cognitive systems and social-mutual negotiation (Matsui, 1983), which has been disregarded by cognitive anthropology, and between usefulness and cognition (Shigeta, 1987), which has not been addressed in previous developmental studies. To do so, it is necessary to focus on the dynamic aspects of knowledge that both fields have overlooked, and to conduct fieldwork on these changing processes within their multitudinous context.
Key Words: Glocal context, livelihood and things, development
Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, Japan
In the rich and vast teak forests of the Bago Mountains in Central Burma (Myanmar), there are areas designated as forest reserves for Karen (a minority ethnic group) shifting cultivators since nineteenth century under British colonial administration to this day. This was a product of compromise between British forest administration which aimed to control the shifting cultivators but lacked manpower and also needed labor for their forest plantations, and the Karen who sought to maintain their subsistence. Since the post-independence internal conflict, the Karen population scattered over the mountains have experienced turmoil and relocation.
In this paper, I explore how the Karen shifting cultivators have maintained their livelihood not only through sustainable use of forest by shifting cultivation with long periods of fallow, but also by forming and reproducing an interrelated network of domestic units (houses) as units of production. The network and sense of relatedness both temporally from generation to generation, as well as spatially across the mountains, is made possible by cultural mechanisms which ensure a chain of relatedness through the mother-child bond within a cognatic social organization. The domestic unit is a bearer of continuity which is marked, not by any inherent biological bond, but through material and cultural markers: rice-seeds and domestic taboos. The network of related houses over in the forested mountains, has provided social resources amid the instability.
A larger question behind this exploration is heredity, succession, and cultural reproduction in a social condition which is mobile and uncertain: How to ensure a sense of relatedness (which also becomes of practical use at times of crisis), and how the domestic unit or relations within it are involved in this. The present case provides an example where the discourse of “heredity” through the maternal line is not in any way “biological”, but in material succession as well as reproduction of cultural practices.
Key Words: Shifting cultivation, cultural reproduction, relatedness