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Publication details for Dr Thomas Yarrow

Yarrow, T. (2008). Negotiating Difference: Discourses of Indigenous Knowledge and Development in Ghana. Political and Legal Anthropology Review 31(2): 224-242.

Author(s) from Durham


This article examines the contested ways in which the international development concept of “indigenous knowledge” has been used and understood by a variety of actors within Ghana including both Ghanaian and non-Ghanaian development workers, chiefs, and members of beneficiary communities. While an ostensibly simplistic opposition between “indigenous” and “western” knowledge underscores this discourse, I argue that it has acted to frame a number of complex and geographically specific debates concerning the respective roles of chiefs and elites in the development of the country. The article also explores how the assumed incommensurability of these knowledge systems creates the need for various kinds of “mediation” and “translation” in which both chiefs and development workers foreground a “dual” identity. Against the prevailing anthropological tendency to critique the opposition between “indigenous” and “western” knowledge, I suggest that it is important to understand how these terms are used by different actors in the negotiation of identities and relations that are not reducible to the binary logic of the terms themselves.