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The dialectics of Indigenous knowledge: Community views from Botswana

Kerstin Andrae-Marobela, Harriet Okatch, Audrey Masizana-Katongo, Barbara N. Ngwenya, Keitseng Monyatsi


Indigenous knowledge (IK) has become a popular subject in the last decade. IK has been recognized by global institutions as a valuable source for scientific innovation and significant in promoting development for poorer communities. However, little attention has been paid to how communities themselves particularly conceptualize IK and how they situate this knowledge in everyday life context. This paper summarizes perceptions of IK from 20 rural communities in the Ghanzi (4) and North-East (16) districts in Botswana. Our findings indicate that IK cannot be defined by contrasting it to other knowledge systems. Rather, IK is abstract and concrete, individual and collective, specific and holistic in a dialectical manner. This inherent “unity of opposites” promotes constant change of IK. Applied to the challenge of linking IK to development, community perceptions inform us that a dialectical process-oriented approach to IK is necessary to harness it for a sustainable development and meaningful education of indigenous people in Botswana.

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