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Knowledge, change and the preservation of progress

Knowledge, change and the preservation of progress

Idrc Reports 21(1): 4-5

Respect for traditional knowledge is urges as a source of learning to understand where societies originate. A Western understanding of traditional cultural knowledge must go beyond an understanding of fundamental values that give meaning; there must be a change in the cultural perception of development. There operates a complex interaction among artistic and spiritual practices, language and communication, patterns of social reproduction, practices in community governance, and management of natural and human resources. There are contradictions because cultural expression is a diverse combination of individual and collective capacities to manage the social, political, economic, and environmental aspects of life. Quick solutions sometimes lead to romanticized notions of cultural knowledge, rather than being systematic and historical and part of the cultural milieu. From the ethnic perspective, traditional knowledge is seen as "indigenous" or an expression of "curious" traditions and practices of native peoples which are different from one's own perspective. Viewing traditional knowledge in this fashion detaches it from rites, languages, and community practices. When reduced to a utilitarian economic notion, traditional knowledge is separated from the lessons drawn from survival strategies and practices of "materially impoverished peoples." Sometimes, the application of this knowledge bypasses recognition of the part played by traditional peoples. People in the North or industrialized countries neglect the human and sociocultural basis of knowledge, even though there have been attempts to reclaim cultural knowledge as part of development efforts. There remain many questions about how to better understand traditional knowledge, how to preserve it in a meaningful way, and how to apply it to sustain development. There is no consensus about what traditional knowledge is and how it is "genuinely" expressed. The definition of traditional knowledge is as a body of information about values and customs that guide interaction among people and between people and nature in a systematic way. The "blueprint for remodeling the world order" is still based on a Western notion of correctness, science, and progress. The threat among developing countries is how to preserve the shared knowledge of human learning that has been handed down for generations.

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