Intercultural science education as dialogue between knowledge systems: learning from overlaps and differences
In intercultural societies, in which interactions among differents cause tensions, encounters, disagreements (García-Canclini 2004), not only conflicts emerge, but also possibilities of dialogue and interchange. Such societies show several “contact zones” (Pratt 1992), spaces of heterogeneous and unequal encounters, of “friction” between different people, values, worldviews, leading to “new arrangements of culture and power” (Tsing 2005). In these zones, hybridizations of practices, discourses, values emerge, and bordering forms of identification can be empowered, counteracting frozen, essentialized identities and differences (Bhabha 2015). These forms of identification may prompt subjects to develop abilities to cross cultural borders and yet maintain their local identities, while incorporating (at least) some aspects of a global perspective. A key role of intercultural education is to explore such possibilities of friction and empowering configurations through classroom dialogue. But how to think of science education from such intercultural perspective? This is the question posed in this talk, considering in particular traditional (TEK) and academic ecological knowledge (AEK). I will apply a “partial overlaps framework” (Ludwig and El-Hani 2020), which avoids both an over-optimistic attitude towards dialogue between TEK and AEK, committed to a philosophical universalist position open to dialogue only when TEK conforms with AEK, and a pessimistic attitude assuming a cross-cultural incommensurability that obliterates the space for fruitful dialogue and mutual learning. Methodologically, this entails analyzing ontological, epistemological and axiological overlaps that may provide common grounds for collaboration and mutual learning, and at the same time areas of divergence between TEK and AEK, i.e., analyzing partialities of overlaps, substantial differences in ontological, epistemological and axiological dimensions. I will illustrate the use of the partial overlaps framework in studies in fishing and Indigenous communities, including classroom examples, and will explore how learning takes place from both overlaps and partialities.
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García-Canclini, N. (2004). Diferentes, Desiguales y Desconectados. Mapas de la Interculturalidad. Barcelona: Gedisa.
Ludwig, D., & El-Hani, C. (2020). Philosophy of Ethnobiology: Understanding Knowledge Integration and Its Limitations. Journal of Ethnobiology 40(1): 3-20.
Pratt, M. L. (1992). Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. London: Routledge, London.
Tsing, A. L. (2005). Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.