Knowledge Democracy

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= "Knowledge democracy acknowledges the existence of multiple epistemologies or ways of knowing, including organic, spiritual and land-based systems, frameworks arising from social movements, and the knowledge of marginalized and excluded people everywhere". [1]


Discussion

"In this approach, knowledge is both created and represented in multiple forms including text, images, numbers, stories, music, drama, poetry, ceremony, meditation and more. Also explicit is the conviction that knowledge is a powerful tool for taking action to deepen democracy and struggle more effectively for a fairer and healthier world. Knowledge democracy intentionally links the values of democracy in action to the processes of creating and using knowledge. By contrast, the geographer David Harvey uses the concept of “accumulation through dispossession” to explain how capital, the basis of our dominant economic system, began to be concentrated in a small number of hands. He draws attention to England between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries when people were removed from land they had been sharing in common. Harvey tells us of wealthy landowners who turned traditional open fields and communal pastures into private property for their own use through the creation of what became known as “enclosures.” Income began to flow from the use of the land to the new land ‘owners,’ while those excluded were further impoverished.

Something similar has happened in the world of knowledge. Both of us have had the opportunity of spending a few days in one of the colleges of Oxford University, a college that was created at the same time as the enclosures. We entered through a low doorway that was only accessible to students, fellows and their guests. The college was walled in, and could only be acessed through two guarded entryways.

While staying there, the links between the enclosure of previously-common land for private purposes and the creation of walled places for learning became disturbingly apparent. The act of creating Oxford and other medieval universities was an act of enclosing and limiting access to knowledge, exerting a form of control, and providing a means through which a small elite could acquire knowledge for the purposes of gaining political, spiritual, and cultural leadership and power.

Those within the walls became the knowers; those outside the walls became the non-knowers. Knowledge was removed from the land and from the relationships of those who shared in it. The enclosing of the academy dispossessed the vast majority of knowledge keepers, forever relegating their knowledge to the status of witchcraft, superstition, folk tradition, or at best some form of ‘common sense.’

These new academies came into being at the same time as the rise of European science, when - through improvements in navigational aids and the wealth generated by the enclosures and the exploitation of silver and gold from Latin America - the hegemony of mostly white, Euro-centric knowledge spread around the world. Just as colonial political practices carved up the globe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, knowledge - the intellectual energy by which human beings operate - became colonized as well. This process of dispossession has been called “epistemicide,” or the killing of knowledge systems, by the philosopher Boaventura de Sousa Santos." (https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/budd-hall-rajesh-tandon/no-more-enclosures-knowledge-democracy-and-social-transformat)