Bargaining with Knoweldge at Development Interfaces Essay

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NEGOTIATING WITH KNOWLEDGE AT DEVELOPMENT INTERFACES. ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE QUEST FOR PARTICIPATION1 Michael Schönhuth Trier, Germany Address: Dr. Michael Schönhuth FB IV-Ethnologie Universität Trier Germany e-mail: Whose participation, whose development? ‘Participating in Development’, the title of the 2000 ASA Conference, contains an intentional ambiguity and leaves room for interpretation: Who will participate here and in whose development? Is it the anthropologist, for whom ‘exciting events’ in the development scene have opened opportunities ‘to engage practically as never before’, as the call for papers suggests? Is it the local communities, for whom ‘a revolution in anthropological method and theory in the new millennium’ might open the door to be ‘no longer research subjects but participants’ (ibid.)? Even if many anthropologists seem happily unaware of it, Sillitoe recognizes ‘a revolution in the pursuit of ethnography’ (1998b: 204, also 1998a) in an article published three years ago. This revolution comes together with the recent participatory approach in development circles, namely the interest in local knowledge/indigenous knowledge2 in bottom-up approaches. With the expertise needed here, Sillitoe sees a chance for anthropologists to consolidate their place in development practice as implementing partners. Thanks go to Christine Bald, Christoph Antweiler and Paul Sillitoe for valuable comments and critique to earlier versions of this contribution. 2 Following Ellen (1998) I take indigenous knowledge (IK) to describe knowledge that is ‘local, orally transmitted, a consequence of practical engagement, reinforced by experience, empirical rather than theoretical, repetitive, fluid and negotiable, shared but asymmetrically distributed, largely functional, and embedded in a more encompassing cultural matrix’ (Ellen 1998: 238; see also

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