M.A. in Social and Cultural Anthropology

M.A. in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Concordia University, 2005


Through two decades of use, the term Indigenous Knowledge has been explored and debated as a legitimate category and analytic device in Anthropology. The term evolved from a mainly empirical reference, to signifying an ideological position which highlights the role of knowledge in power relations. Indigenous knowledge has generated epistemological challenges beyond structural and cognitive domains that have to this point mediated our analyses of non-Western lifeworlds. IK stresses the power of agency and place, where realities are defined in practice through daily habitus, rather than pre-established social structures.

If knowledge is not an essence and can be revealed only in its usage and exchange, then the question that preoccupies those working with Indigenous Knowledge remains: Ethnographically, where can one find manifestations of indigenous knowledge? The notion of “knowledge interfaces” provides a possible framework in which to glean the multiple interactions of local and not-so-local knowledge occurring in order to gain insight into struggles for identify, space and power.

Can focusing on “interfaces” reveal how cultural and knowledge repertoires are being contested, mobilized, and reshaped within these various arena? Fieldwork undertaken in Nepal in the spring of 2004 explored three contexts in which actors and institutions concerned with protecting indigenous knowledge and lifeways interact.