Indigenous and communitarian knowledges
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Original versionKrøvel RG: Indigenous and communitarian knowledges. In: Krøvel RG, Halvorsen T, Orgeret K. Sharing Knowledge, Transforming Societies: The Norhed Programme 2013-2020, 2019. African Minds p. 105-131
As we were planning the project application for the Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development (Norhed), I was reading an article by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro titled ‘Cannibal metaphysics: Amerindian perspectivism’ (partially reprinted in Radical Philosophy). According to Peter Skafish in his introduction to the article, de Castro shows that ‘what falls under the domain of “social” and “human” relations for … Amazonian peoples’ is very broad. In fact, ‘animals, plants, spirits are all conceived as persons’ so that ‘modern distinctions between nature and culture, animals and humans, and even descent and marriage ties are effectively inverted’ (Skafish 2013: 15). At the same time, I had been reading a biography of Arne Næss (Gjefsen 2011). No one has influenced Norwegian thinking on matters such as philosophy of science more than the philosopher Næss. For decades, virtually all Norwegian students had his textbooks on philosophy and research methodologies on their reading list. However, in the 1950s other philosophers, such as Hans Skjervheim, began to view the textbooks on research methodologies as too narrowly focused on methodologies developed in the natural sciences, ignoring methodologies coming from the humanities. The critique led Næss to rewrite the textbooks to include chapters on hermeneutics and other methodologies from the humanities. Næss seemed to agree with his critics that methodologies imported from the natural sciences alone were not adequate to study human society. Subsequent developments in disciplines such as history and cultural studies seem to build on and underline this notion of difference between studying nature and studying society. My development as an academic took place within these debates. I was trained in research methodologies grounded in this supposed difference between studying society and studying nature. But what if indigenous peoples of the Amazon and elsewhere are right? How can research methodologies be developed where students do not take ‘modern distinctions between nature and culture, animals and humans, and even descent and marriage ties’ for granted? According to Koch and Weingart (2016), research methodologies can never be ‘transferred’ from one locality to another. Instead, methodologies are sampled, mixed and socially reconstructed. In this chapter, I take a reflexive approach to sampling, mixing and socially constructing research methodologies. I consider what happened during the Norhed project process and what this can tell us about encounters between Norwegian traditions of education and research and indigenous people’s perspectives on education and research. I try to shed light on this process by analysing what I see as a series of key moments. Ultimately, I hope to explain how and why indigenous and communitarian universities in Latin America are different from most universities participating in the Norhed programme.