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      Toward productive complicity: Applying ‘traditional ecological knowledge’ in environmental science

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          Abstract

          Culture and tradition have long been the domains of social science, particularly social/cultural anthropology and various forms of heritage studies. However, many environmental scientists whose research addresses environmental management, conservation, and restoration are also interested in traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous and local knowledge, and local environmental knowledge (hereafter TEK), not least because policymakers and international institutions promote the incorporation of TEK in environmental work. In this article, we examine TEK usage in peer-reviewed articles by environmental scientists published in 2020. This snapshot of environmental science scholarship includes both critical discussions of how to incorporate TEK in research and management and efforts to do so for various scholarly and applied purposes. Drawing on anthropological discussions of culture, we identify two related patterns within this literature: a tendency toward essentialism and a tendency to minimize power relationships. We argue that scientists whose work reflects these trends might productively engage with knowledge from the scientific fields that study culture and tradition. We suggest productive complicity as a reflexive mode of partnering, and a set of questions that facilitate natural scientists adopting this approach: What and/or who is this TEK for? Who and what will benefit from this TEK deployment? How is compensation/credit shared? Does this work give back and/or forward to all those involved?

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          Most cited references126

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          Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social–ecological systems analyses

          Carl Folke (2006)
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            Use of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Marine Conservation

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              Connecting Diverse Knowledge Systems for Enhanced Ecosystem Governance: The Multiple Evidence Base Approach

              Indigenous and local knowledge systems as well as practitioners’ knowledge can provide valid and useful knowledge to enhance our understanding of governance of biodiversity and ecosystems for human well-being. There is, therefore, a great need within emerging global assessment programs, such as the IPBES and other international efforts, to develop functioning mechanisms for legitimate, transparent, and constructive ways of creating synergies across knowledge systems. We present the multiple evidence base (MEB) as an approach that proposes parallels whereby indigenous, local and scientific knowledge systems are viewed to generate different manifestations of knowledge, which can generate new insights and innovations through complementarities. MEB emphasizes that evaluation of knowledge occurs primarily within rather than across knowledge systems. MEB on a particular issue creates an enriched picture of understanding, for triangulation and joint assessment of knowledge, and a starting point for further knowledge generation.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                (View ORCID Profile)
                (View ORCID Profile)
                Journal
                The Anthropocene Review
                The Anthropocene Review
                SAGE Publications
                2053-0196
                2053-020X
                December 11 2021
                : 205301962110570
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University of Gothenburg, Sweden
                [2 ]Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Sweden
                [3 ]Örebro University, Sweden
                Article
                10.1177/20530196211057026
                66cdcd27-299b-4a32-9f58-6c28d4a3a33c
                © 2021

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


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