Volume 4, Issue 2 (2013)

SPECIAL ISSUE: Circulating Knowledge. Empirical Examples from the Social Sciences

Christian Ersche, Ercüment Çelik, Wiebke Keim, Veronika Wöhrer
This special issue of Transcience contributes to the current debates about the circulation of knowledge in the social sciences. The authors offer an outline of the issue.

What kind of knowledge is 'indigenous knowledge'? Critical insights from a case study in Burkina Faso
Cristiano Lanzano
The concept of 'indigenous knowledge' (and later, of related expressions such as 'local' or 'traditional knowledge', often used as synonyms) emerged from the academic literature of the 80s both in the social and natural sciences. It later became popular in the political debate, especially in the fields of development aid and environmental conservation. This article makes an attempt at problematizing the idea of 'indigenous knowledge', first through a review of some critical positions in the social sciences, particularly in anthropology, and then through a presentation of an ethnographic case study on 'traditional' environmental practices and sacred sites in the area of the Comoé-Léraba reserve in Western Burkina Faso.

"The Academy and the Rest"? Intellectual Engagements, Circulation of Knowledge and the Labour Movement in South Africa, 1970s-1980s
Ercüment Çelik
This paper aims to explore the circulation of knowledge between academic and extra-academic fields by focusing on the intellectual engagements with the labour movement in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. As the sites of intellectual engagements, it limits its focus on the cases of the Institute for Industrial Education (IEE) and the South African Labour Bulletin (SALB), which played a prominent role in the development of independent trade unions in the 1970s. The paper attempts to identify some characteristics and forms of the engagement of intellectuals in the labour movement during this period. It also aims to develop a point of view, which underlines multiple functions and identities of these intellectuals. The paper develops a complementary understanding of the engagements of different groups of intellectuals with the labour movement. The author argues that this point of view neither ignores the role of the other groups of intellectuals nor eliminates the prominent role of 'white' university intellectuals in the development of the labour movement, which has been discussed increasingly in recent years. The information in this paper is based on secondary resources as well as a preliminary analysis of the qualitative data collected through 16 in-depth interviews with academics and trade unionists in South Africa in 2011.

Cosmopolitanism at work on the Malabar Coast of South India - a study with Muslim students in Kozhikode
Barbara Riedel
The Malabar Coast in South India is a classical region of this world where goods were exchanged and international cultures, ideas and religions met, interacted, clashed and melted throughout the centuries. The societies, cultures and economies were strongly influenced by trade and the openness towards the ocean. Along with other communities, the Mappila Muslims of Kerala played a crucial role in the cosmopolitan past of this region. Nowadays, we can observe a new kind of cosmopolitanism emerging from this region, also among the Mappila Muslims. Based on fieldwork as a social anthropologist done with Muslim students of the Malabar Christian College in Kozhikode (Calicut) and their families, this paper will make an attempt to outline this new, locally-rooted cosmopolitanism.

The New Contours of Salonikan Politics and Production of Multiple Rhetorics during the Eighteenth Century
Irfan Kokdas
By conceptualizing the relationship between the early modern economic growth and the multiplication of political rhetorics on the one hand and the rising permeability of the intellectual sphere on the other, this study scrutinizes the ways in which the substantive socioeconomic changes in eighteenth-century Salonika generated competing political meanings and discourses over the ideal social order as well as the roles and positions of social groups. While analyzing the "democratization" of knowledge and ideology production, this study also explores how these changes within Salonikan society undergirded the expansion of Salonikan political and intellectual domains accompanied by the mobility of scholars, religious functionaries and people [ahali]. It was exactly this expansion and mobility that would set the contours of scholarly and ideological debates in an Ottoman provincial setting.

Decolonization of Social Research Practice in Latin America: What can we learn for German Social Sciences?
Anika Meckesheimer
On the background of the debate on a decolonization of social research in Latin America, this article focuses on the epistemic and methodological implications of decolonization research done together with, and not only about, social actors. From the disciplinary perspective of social psychology, the argument focuses on forms of relationships which are established between researchers and the social actors who are involved in research projects. While the decision for a decolonization of one's own research practice is a personal decision, research has to be carried out within a particular institutional framework, which frequently perpetuates the power relationships that are questioned by the decolonial gaze. This article presents a series of examples, mainly of feminist academic activism in Mexico, where institutional spaces have been created in order to facilitate a dialogue with representatives of social movements. Regarding the lessons to be learned for German social sciences, the argument again focuses on the institutional framework in which a decolonial research practice would have to be carried out. While the epistemological and methodological challenges of decolonizing research practice are taken especially by younger researchers who are close to social movements, the institutional conditions can present serious obstacles to such options and are worth rethinking [on a structural level].