Loughborough University
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Sustainable knowledge systems and resource stewardship: in search of ethno-forestry paradigms for the indigenous peoples of Eastern Kham

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posted on 2006-06-01, 15:21 authored by John F. Studley
Policy-makers, project planners and development organisations are becoming convinced that the failure of the new socio-ecologically sensitive strategies co-opted by 'professional' forestry could be better addressed by indigenous forestry. They believe that indigenous forestry might assist with the development of successful forestry projects that are ecologically sustainable and socio-politically equitable. In order, however, to learn from indigenous forestry systems, the acculturation of foresters in the vernacular culture of the forest users appears to be an essential process for understanding and intervening in a local forest management complex. Acculturation entails not only more attention to the immaterial cultural realm, but an understanding of multiple resource stewardship, local ways of knowing and perceiving, local forest values and 'practices of care'. While acknowledging the significance of the politics of knowledge and political ecology this study examines resource stewardship from an alternative neglected angle that of knowledge sustainability and synergistic bridging. It will examine in general modes of knowing and bridging between 'formal' and indigenous forestry knowledge, and in particular the identification of forest value paradigms that are evidently exemplars of bio-cultural sustainability. The main outcomes of this study include the cognitive mapping of forest values among 'Tibetan minority nationalities' in Eastern Kham, their spatial distribution and the coincidence of changes in forest values with cultural or biophysical phenomena. Conceptually this study relies heavily on knowledge-system, hypertext, and paradigm theory and a critique of the narratives of John Locke. The former provide a platform to compare and contrast alternative knowledge systems and a means of synergistic bridging between them and the latter encapsulates a trajectory of western knowledge often known as modernity. The quantitative methods employed in this study included text analysis for forest value identification, multidimensional scaling for the cognitive mapping of forest values, spatial analysis and kriging for forest value distribution, and boundary or wombling analysis for changes in forest values and their coincidence with cultural or biophysical phenomena. The latter four methods are groundbreaking in that they have never been used to study forest values before. The study concludes that there is compelling evidence suggesting homogeneity in forest values with up to 5 geospatial paradigms and up to 12 cognitive paradigms. The findings, especially close correlation between forest values and ethnolinguistics, provide a potential template for foresters to develop multiple models of natural resource or biodiversity stewardship based on local forest values. In terms of the wider application, indigenous knowledge cannot seemingly be sustained if it is integrated with or into western knowledge systems due to the lack of conceptual frameworks for cross-cultural epistemological or psychological integration. Coalescing under the rubric of post-modernism, however, we do find a number of complimentary trajectories, which seemingly provide space for knowledge equity, sustainability and bridging. These trajectories include hypertext theory, paradigm theory, abductive logic, adaptive management, ecospiritual paradigms, and post-modern forestry paradigms. These trajectories and findings offer planners globally a means for synergistic bridging between local and non-local knowledge systems on the road to sustainable forestry and biodiversity stewardship.



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment


© John Studley

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Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Geography) of Loughborough University.

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