The Politics of Knowledge in Development: An Analytical Frame

Published date01 June 2021
Date01 June 2021
Subject MatterSpecial Section Articles
Special Section Article
The Politics of Knowledge in
Development: An Analytical Frame
Madhulika Banerjee1
The parameters of modern knowledge systems are clearly showing fault lines—that if there is a con-
tinuation of the technological systems at the heart of development, neglecting the twin issues of ecology
and equity—there is a serious threat to human existence. This article seeks to answer a specific ques-
tion: in the context of the twenty-first century search of offering alternatives to the hegemonic devel-
opment paradigm, what kind of knowledges of production in society could possibly be best developed
at this point in history? It argues that the answer lies in ‘already existing knowledge systems ( AEKS)’,
accompanied by critical thinking on production, distribution and consumption systems. Locating the
production of knowledge in five spaces—historical context, policy formulation, political economic
structures, forms of collective action and articulation of contested epistemologies—it argues that when
AEKS are understood both in form and transformation in these spaces, that the possibilities they offer
for substantial alternatives can be explored.
Knowledge, development, history, ecology, equity, economy, collective action, epistemology, traditional
knowledge, alternative knowledge systems
There is no doubt now that the processes of development as developed in the last two centuries are
unsustainable for the planet and that alternatives are urgently needed. What is more, twenty-first century
politics now has, as its topmost agenda, the creation, propagation and mobilization for alternatives. Yet,
development and sustainability are actually a difficult binary to overcome and requires out-of-the-box
thinking on production, distribution and consumption systems. One of the points of entry for this thought
process would be from ‘already existing knowledge systems ( AEKS henceforth)’.2 Two characteristics
Studies in Indian Politics
9(1) 78–90, 2021
© 2021 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2321023021999176
1 Department of Political Science, Delhi University, Delhi, India.
2 This is being used instead of the more popular ‘traditional knowledge’, which I believe has run out its value. The knowledges in
question are often dynamic and evolving, while labelling them ‘traditional’ signifies a fixed and non-reflexive orientation. As the
article will show, this is not true of a range of knowledges and that is what offers the best range of possibilities in adapting them to
the contemporary.
Corresponding author:
Madhulika Banerjee, Department of Political Science, Delhi University, Delhi 110007, India.

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