Brosius 'Indigenous Knowledge': A Critical Analysis

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This article discusses how Western environmentalists transform indigenous knowledge for the purpose of constructing an image and how they use this as a tool of persuasion. Through the example of the Penan people in Malaysia, Brosius touches on the themes of how indigenous knowledge is commonly linked to scared and ineffable for the purpose of creating a façade to make the indigenous people narratable and valuable. The Penan campaign started after their demonstrations against logging companies. Now Penan is being used as an example of how indigenous people can assert control over their land and destiny. In this article, Brosius critiques the Western environmentalists representation of indigenous knowledge by comparing his own research with that of Wade Davis and Thom Henley.…show more content…
“With the loss of native cultures, there is also disappearing the vital and important knowledge of a way of living in balance with the earth.” Resource management, landscape knowledge and the rhetoric of medicinal plants are three examples Brosius uses to show the transformation of indigenous knowledge that occurs in environmentalist texts. According to Brosius, the Penan exploit crops in a process that maintains its long-term availability and use a molong system to monitor the availability of resources. Davis and Henley embellished this concept in one that has little to do with Penan because of the customary “Western romantic tradition.” Landscapes, specifically the rivers, Brosius explains form the skeleton of environmental knowledge, where river names incorporate ecological knowledge and memories of past events. Davis and Henley transform the Penan knowledge of landscapes into an “obscurantist discourse”, writing “For the Penan, the forest is alive, pulsing and responsive in a 1000 ways to their physical needs and spiritual readiness.” The rhetoric of medicinal plants emphasizes the effect of Western

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