(Un)Subjugating Indigenous Knowledge for Sustainable Development
Considerations for Community-Based Research in African Higher Education
Keywords:Africa, community-based research, higher education, indigenous knowledge, sustainable development
The relationship between development and higher education has evolved to become co-generative. The most recent incarnation of development goals, the sustainable development goals (SDG) call for a more intentional integration of higher education in development. However, universities juggle many, often competing, priorities that may confound their role in sustainable development. The tripartite mission of teaching, research, and service can, at times, be in conflict with one another, particularly when universities prize research and funding over solving social problems. While university-generated research is seen as critical to development in Africa, research is not value free and questions regarding ends are critical to the sustainable development enterprise. These questions necessarily engage debates about types of knowledge and their place in the academy. Research, particularly community-based research as a form of research partnership between academics and community members, can provide an avenue by which to develop relevant solutions to social problems by honoring the voices, artifacts, histories, traditions, and knowledges of those Indigenous communities that buttress the university, thereby potentially contributing to both the social and environmental justice at the heart of sustainable development. Our research was focused on how community members and African academics in The Gambia and Zambia constructed the role of the community and Indigenous knowledge within research activities. Here we highlight the specific cultural and epistemic strategies academic researchers used to engage Indigenous communities and knowledge, the dilemmas faced in the field, and the connections (both real and potential) made through research relationships to sustainable development.
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