Beyond South Africa's 'indigenous knowledge - science' wars


  • Lesley Green Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town


intellectual heritages, indigenous knowledge, modernist ontologies, South Africa, Western science


In this paper, the paradoxes and difficulties attending the notion of indigenous knowledge in South Africa are reviewed and an alternative dialogue about intellectual heritage is proposed. Beginning with a survey of debates on 'indigenous knowledge' and sciences in India, Australia and Latin America, the discussion draws attention to differences in regional discussions on the subject of knowledge diversity. Turning to the South African context, the paper foregrounds contradictions in the debate on traditional medicines and the sciences in relation to HIV. The bifurcation of 'indigenous knowledge' and 'science' is argued against. Debates on both indigenous knowledge and science within the critical humanities in South Africa have been characterised by denunciation: an approach which does not facilitate the important discussions needed on intellectual heritage, or on the relationship between sciences and coloniality. In dialogue with current research on the anthropology of knowledge, strategies are proposed to broaden the possibilities for scholarship on knowledge, sciences, and different ways of understanding the world.


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Author Biography

Lesley Green, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town

Lesley Green, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at UCT, is the convenor of the UCT Sawyer Seminar on Knowledges, Ways of Knowing and the PostColonial University, and an associate of the Project for the Enhancement of Research Capacity in the UCT Research Office.



How to Cite

Green, L. (2012). Beyond South Africa’s ’indigenous knowledge - science’ wars. South African Journal of Science, 108(7/8), 10 Pages. Retrieved from



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