Whereas the natural sciences typically maintain a divide between ‘experts’ and ‘amateurs,’ some scholars argue that this divide discounts local and indigenous peoples who contribute to Western environmental knowledge, but whose legitimacy the professionalization of science has erased. This globalization of science ultimately threatens local decision-making power over land use and economic development, with the ‘experts’ informing policy located far away from the places where the data was gathered yet immediately affected by the decisions. However, with the increasing recognition of the validity of Indigenous Knowledges, what is happening is more than a policy shift that incorporates native knowledge into the science. Guided by geographic theories of scale, I suggest in this paper that there is a change in the very definition of expertise and the structures of environmental management, forwarding a compelling political as well as epistemological challenge to Western positivism.

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Local knowledge/global science?

Challenges to western geographies of expertise

Annette Watson   Geography Department, University of Minnesota

Whereas the natural sciences typically maintain a divide between ‘experts’ and ‘amateurs,’ some scholars argue that this divide discounts local and indigenous peoples who contribute to Western environmental knowledge, but whose legitimacy the professionalization of science has erased. This globalization of science ultimately threatens local decision-making power over land use and economic development, with the ‘experts’ informing policy located far away from the places where the data was gathered yet immediately affected by the decisions. However, with the increasing recognition of the validity of Indigenous Knowledges, what is happening is more than a policy shift that incorporates native knowledge into the science. Guided by geographic theories of scale, I suggest in this paper that there is a change in the very definition of expertise and the structures of environmental management, forwarding a compelling political as well as epistemological challenge to Western positivism.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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