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Oral Traditions and Scientific Knowledge: Some Remarks on the Epistemological Validity of the Indigenous Perspective

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The main concern of this paper is to link personal experience and theoretical reflection. The author argues that the oral traditions of indigenous societies have always honoured this link in their attempts to formulate "knowledge" and transmit it to following generations. This transmission of "tradition" remained creative and flexible enough to incorporate changes while never violating people's need to also have fun. This fun was noted by outside observers from the expanding European empires from an early age. But only today is it realized that this fun may be an essential ingredient in the "indigenous epistemology": a major element of a more personalized method to gain and confirm knowledge about the world. The author suggests that concerned scientists might do well to learn about this method from indigenous societies whose very existence appears to be threatened by a global belief in growth and development based on the application of the results of a science which neglected the link between personal experience and theoretical reflection.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Sociology Westfaelische Wilhelms University


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