Theory of Knowledge

Last updated June 2020.

Senior Library collection

The Masque of Africa: glimpses of African belief

The Masque of Africa considers the effects of belief (in indigenous animisms, the foreign religions of Christianity and Islam, the cults of leaders and mythical history) upon the progress of African civilization.

Introducing Cultural Studies

Covering the ground from Antonio Gramsci to Raymond Williams, postcolonial discourse to the politics of diaspora, feminism to queer theory, technoculture and the media to globalization, Introducing Cultural Studies serves as an insightful guide to the essential concepts of this fascinating area of study.

Living the Wisdom of the Tao

"Change your thoughts-change your life." So simple, so profound, and yet for so many, so difficult.This book offers you an opportunity to internalize and directly experience the great wisdom of the Tao Te Ching, a collection of verses authored by the Chinese prophet Lao-tzu. It is a new way of thinking in a world that needs to recapture its ancient teachings

The Geography of Thought

Everyone knows that while different cultures think about the world differently, they use the same equipment for doing their thinking. But what if everyone is wrong? The Geography of Thought documents Richard Nisbett's groundbreaking international research in cultural psychology and shows that people actually think about-and even see-the world differently because of differing ecologies, social structures, philosophies, and educational systems that date back to ancient Greece and China.

Born to Run

An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?   Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America,

Videos - Indigenous knowledge

Weblinks - Indigenous knowledge

Indigenous Knowledge - Key concepts

Key concepts

Culture-specific - Must be seen in terms of broadly applicable features

Locally bound, context specific - is knowledge grounded in a specific area, and rich in close observation of details of the surrounding environment. 

Non-formal and orally transmitted - passed on informally and orally through language, songs and dance, demonstration and shared work, through rituals and customs of everyday life.

Holistic - In indigenous cultures there is little echo of the distinct classification that most contemporary societies construct of science, literature, history, ethics and religion.

Dynamic and adaptive - Concerned with survival in a particular place, indigenous knowledge keeps a sharp focus on the particular features of the landscape and its life. 

Indigenous and "western" knowledge - in natural sciences, knowledge is shared and constructed by decontextualising and depersonalizing knowledge. Within the academic sciences, indigenous knowledge has increasingly been given respect as traditional ecological knowledge and understood to complement scientific understanding. 

Historical development : colonialism, globalization - Colonialism and globalization have often fostered insulting versions of indigenous people and their knowledge. Native peoples have either been romanticised as stoic and noble or denigrated as lazy and ignorant. 

Accuracy and respect - On the one hand it is urgently important for us to recognise and talk about aboriginal cultural achievements so that they are more widely recognized and appreciated. On the other hand, talking about peoples and their knowledge without their consent, can, for some groups, be an additional offence or theft. 

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UNESCO - Local and indigenous knowledge systems (LINKS)

Sophisticated knowledge of the natural world is not confined to science. Societies from all parts of the world possess rich sets of experience, understanding and explanation. Local and indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings.

The Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme is a UNESCO interdisciplinary initiative that works:

  • to secure an active and equitable role for local communities in resource management;
  • to strengthen knowledge transmission across and within generations;
  • to explore pathways to balance community-based knowledge with global knowledge in formal and non-formal education;
  • to support the meaningful inclusion of local and indigenous knowledge in biodiversity conservation and management, and climate change assessment and adaptation

Indigenous knowledge - Questions for reflection

?? What does it mean to be "indigenous"

?? How reliable are oral traditions in preserving cultural heritage in indigenous knowledge systems?

?? To what extent does the fact that early literature on indigenous knowledge systems was written from a non-indigenous perspective affect its credibility?

?? Why is there often such a strong connection between indigenous knowledge and cosmology?

?? What are the roles of folklore,rituals, and songs in indigenous knowledge systems?

?? What elements of universal significance may we discern in indigenous knowledge systems?

?? To what extent are indigenous knowledge systems influenced by the society and culture in which they are followed?

?? How do perspectives affect knowledge? 

?? How is knowledge affected by structures of power?

Quotes - Indigenous knowledge

Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence. Mourning Dove

Only when the last tree has died
and the last river has been poisoned
and the last fish has been caught
will we realize we cannot eat money
Cree Indian Expression

Envy is a worm that gnaws and consumes the entrails of ambitious men. Pachacuti

We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, We borrow it from our Children Indian Proverb

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
Mahatma Gandhi