OOS 30-5 - The emics, etics, ethics and equity in the dialogue between worlds: Beyond bridges, integration, partnerships, scales and other common concepts in the utilization of traditional ecological knowledge

Wednesday, August 8, 2012: 2:50 PM
A107, Oregon Convention Center
Preston Hardison, Watershed Specialist, The Tulalip Tribes

Cultural anthropologists have commonly made the distinction between points of view in ethnographic studies. The emic is the cultural insiders' perspective, expressed in terms and concepts that have meaning within a local and historical context. The etic point of view is the outside observers' view, often portrayed as universal and culturally neutral. One criticism of the dominant mode of assessing traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is that it has focused on mapping rules for translating etic narratives into emic ecological theory, which is held to be a superior touchstone and standard for decision making. There are many underappreciated risks of this point of view for indigenous peoples, which serve as strong impediments to developing partnerships with scientists, natural resource agencies and decision makers.


This presentation will discuss four of these impediments: 1. the benefits from the use of traditional ecological knowledge comes from the performance of practices and beliefs, and the "als-ob" ("as-if") approach can undermine the norms and institutions that support knowledge systems as complex adaptive systems; 2. "integration" language related to different knowledge systems focuses too much on knowledge exchange rather than on effective outcomes and respectful long-term relationships; 3. the focus on exchange of knowledge underestimates the risks of exposing traditional knowledge through the research or project system to legal, political and power issues beyond what is usually addressed in "cross-scale" analysis; and 4. the approach can fail to recognize and respect indigenous peoples as political actors who hold rights to collective governance and self-determination with regards to their biocultural heritage ("natural resources") and associated traditional knowledge. Of particular importance is the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Both set up a standard of free, prior and informed consent for access to both natural resources and traditional knowledge. For partnerships to be effective, more attention needs to be paid to keeping living traditions alive in their place, and making recognition and respect for other ways of knowing their core ethical principles. In the emic view, traditional ecological knowledge is co-creative with a living universe, and by custom carries with it perpetual obligations and limitations for its proper use which should be enabled and honored as the basis for an equitable dialogue.