Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Indigenise, Nationalise and Spiritualise: An Agenda for Education?

“Indigenise, Nationalise and Spiritualise: An Agenda for Education?” In International Social Science Journal, 173, September 2002, 373-383.

This paper explores the relation between ‘indigenous knowledge’ and ‘formal education’ through the juxtaposition of two different but closely related examples from India  – the inclusion of astrology as 'indigenous knowledge' in the university curriculum, and schooling among 'indigenous peoples'. In both cases, the valorization of a certain body of knowledge as indigenous and its incorporation into a formal system (which then certifies it as legitimate ‘knowledge’) depends on the status and power of the social group claiming indigenous status, rather than the substantive content of the knowledge. Vedic astrology finds a place in the Indian university curriculum because the group backing it, the Hindu right, has been successful in claiming indigeneity, and they have the political power to transmute their beliefs into certified ‘knowledge’. On the other hand, indigenous peoples have not been able to assert themselves politically, and therefore their languages and systems of knowledge remain marginal. Ultimately then, ‘indigenous knowledge’ is a political and contextual category rather than one with substantive content. 

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