[Answered] Examine the uniqueness of tribal knowledge system when compared with mainstream knowledge and cultural systems

Tribal knowledge systems represent inter-generational wisdom in band societies passed on to the present times through centuries of experience and learnings. While similar characteristics can be seen in evolution of mainstream knowledge and culture, tribal knowledge systems are unique due to following reasons: 

  1. Tribal societies have contemporary knowledge of nature due to continued closeness to forests, flora and fauna. Mainstream societies have moved on to agricultural basis of society, and their cultural knowledge represents impressions of their tribal past, which no longer exists. 
  2. While mainstream knowledge systems are based on rigorous refining and questioning of ideas through discussions and scientific verification, tribal methods are based on conservation of knowledge. For example, the awareness among tribals of Andaman & Nicobar about a wall of sea helped them against Tsunami in 2004. 
  3. Tribal knowledge systems are stored in songs and stories, while mainstream knowledge is preserved in books and recordings. 
  4. Tribal knowledge systems promote integrated learning for the community. In mainstream society, knowledge and traditions have bifurcated, with traditions becoming a subject of study instead of mode of studying. 
  5. Tribal knowledge systems are non-exclusionary and marked by equity. Mainstreams knowledge systems are mired in barriers like cost of education, patent protections, social exclusion etc. 

Tribal and mainstream societies are not mutually exclusive systems. Constant interaction and mutual dependence have enriched both. The way forward should be based on mixture of mutual learning and preservation through salad bowl model instead of assimilation. Recent initiatives like India’s Traditional Knowledge Didital Library initiative or the Nehruvian model of Tribal Panchsheel are some other approaches.

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