Knowledges in a Global Perspective

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSGA2GS4024

Semester and Year Offered: 1st Semester, 1st Year

Course Coordinator and Team: Anil Persaud

Email of course coordinator: anil[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: This interdisciplinary course about ‘knowledges’ and their uses is intended to help students interested in globalization and globality understand how perceptions of and statements about the world are generated and validated, and about how knowledge both shapes and issues from communication networks. Why knowledges (plural) instead of knowledge (singular)? This course attempts to bring together thinking about knowledge and knowledge systems in relation to humans’ habits and pre-dispositions that are conscious (even if rarely examined), that are learned and can be unlearned, and that provide a basis for collective action. The course explores how a ‘knowledge order’ was constituted through the natural and social sciences, mainly in Europe and ‘the West’ over the past three centuries, and became entrenched after about 1850 CE within university systems, and was used by Westerners to establish domination over non-Westerners. What does it therefore mean to contend, as have many, that ‘Western’ scientific knowledge, shaping the modern social sciences, has directly facilitated global patterns of domination down to the present time? How has the modern Western-origin knowledge order been consolidated in late (or advanced) capitalism or been challenged by it? From which spaces, and through what voices, have current forms of global domination been challenged? How will people in today’s world find or create forms of knowledge that promote liberation, harmony and (a key-word of our age) sustainability, instead of domination, wounding or exterminating competition, waste and suffering? This course notions such as indigenization, ‘border thinking’, ‘trans-modernity’ and ecologism whose advocates argue will put globalization on a non-exploitative, democratically cooperative and sustainable track.

Course Outcomes:

  1. To show how knowledge systems form the kinds of questions that we are able to ask about the world (constitutive normativity).
  2. To demonstrate how knowledge systems have fostered or challenged patterns of domination characteristic of ‘modern’ life. To illustrate how shifts in power relations on a global scale are related to epistemic shifts (conceptions about what is known or knowable).
  3. To show that understanding globalization and globality requires habits of knowledge-seeking and knowledge-authorizing different from those fostered by the ‘disciplinary’ knowledge formation of the past two or three centuries.
  4. To locate knowledge systems (‘philosophies’) alternative to functional (or technocratic) rationality that nevertheless serve a wide variety of basic human needs: production and reproduction, preserving health/healing, spirituality, art, finding connections between past, present and future.
  5. To help students communicate effectively, through speaking and writing, about ideas and concepts relating to globalization and globality.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. Introduction: Covers what scholars have identified as the key aspects of the accelerating process of globalization. That is, the importance of multiple scales of analysis, transnationality, continuity and change, multiple epistemological and experiential perspectives, response to the inadequacy of established research disciplines, and learning global citizenship in order to Lever and strengthen regional and international collaborations.
  2. Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment (from inside and outside) – Knowledges in ‘the Indies’ and crises of European colonial authority, c. 1600 – 1800 – Academic and professional expertise and the modern bureaucratic state – Empiricism, inductivism and the roles of theory.
  3. The maturing of social science disciplines, c. 1850 – 1950. Disciplinarity and its discontents; combinations of disciplines (e.g., anthropological economics, historical sociology). The humanities – science divide: ‘Two Cultures’?
  4. Aboriginal/indigenous/local knowledges and their uses: anti-Enlightenment thinking? Taking up anew questions of ‘how we know’ and ‘for what purposes are knowledges sought and produced’, this module focuses on knowledge practices of Africa, the Americas and Australasia both before and after Western colonization.
  5. Questioning ontology of certainty – explaining the contemporary condition. Really existing science and its challenges: focus on oncology, climatology, science of genetically modified organisms.
  6. Conclusions and ‘lessons’ for global studies scholars

Assessment Details with weights:

  1. ‘Thought pieces’/Short written assignments (2 – 3 pages): 4 @ 10 = 40%
  2. Mid-term examination: 20%
  3. Term paper (15 – 20 pages): 40%

Reading List:

Essential readings:

  • Arun Agrawal (1995). ‘Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge: Some Critical Comments’. IK Monitor 3(3), pp. 1-9.
  • Zygmunt Bauman (2007), Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty, Polity (excerpts).
  • Walter Benjamin (1940). On the concept of history,
  • David Wade, Chambers and Richard Gillespie (2000). ‘Locality in the History of Science: Colonial Science, Technoscience, and Indigenous Knowledge,’ Osiris, 15, pp. 221-240.
  • Randall Collins (1994). ‘Prologue: the Rise of the Social Sciences’, in Four Sociological Traditions, OUP, pp. 1-33.
  • Enrique Dussell (2002). ‘World-System and “Trans”-Modernity,’ Nepantla, 3:2, p. 221-44.
  • Ella Henry and Hone Pene. (2001). ‘Kaupapa Māori: Locating indigenous ontology, epistemology and methodology in the academy,’ Organization, 8(2), pp. 234-242.
  • Richard Levins (1996). ‘Ten Proposition on Science and Anti-science’, Social Text, 46, pp. 101-111.
  • James Maffie (2009). ‘”In the end, we have the Gatling gun, and they have not”: Future prospects of indigenous knowledges,’ Futures, 41, pp. 53-65.
  • Stephen A. Marglin (1990). Dominating Knowledge: Development, Culture, and Resistance, Clarendon Press (excerpts).
  • Carolyn Merchant (1980). The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution, Harper and Row (excerpts).
  • Annemarie Mol (1999), ‘Ontological Politics: A Word and Some Questions,’ in: J. Law (ed.), Actor Network Theory and After, Blackwell, pp. 74-89.
  • L. Semali and Joe Kincheloe (1999). ‘Introduction: What Is Indigenous Knowledge and Why Should We Study It?’, in: Semali & Kincheloe (eds.), What Is Indigenous Knowledge: Voices from the Academy, Falmer Press, pp. 3-57.