Robert Morrell at The Conversation: “Globalisation and new technology have changed the ways that knowledge is made, disseminated and consumed. At the push of a button, one can find articles or sources from all over the world. Yet the global knowledge economy is still marked by its history.
The former colonial nations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – the rich countries of Europe and North America which are collectively called the global North (normally considered to include the West and the first world, the North contains a quarter of the world’s population but controls 80% of income earned) – are still central in the knowledge economy. But the story is not one simply of Northern dominance. A process of making knowledge in the South is underway.
European colonisers encountered many sophisticated and complex knowledge systems among the colonised. These had their own intellectual workforces, their own environmental, geographical, historical and medical sciences. They also had their own means of developing knowledge. Sometimes the colonisers tried to obliterate these knowledges.
In other instances colonisers appropriated local knowledge, for instance in agriculture, fisheries and mining. Sometimes they recognised and even honoured other knowledge systems and intellectuals. This was the case among some of the British in India, and was the early form of “Orientalism”, the study of people and cultures from the East.
In the past few decades, there’s been more critique of global knowledge inequalities and the global North’s dominance. There have also been shifts in knowledge production patterns; some newer disciplines have stepped away from old patterns of inequality.
These issues are examined in a new book, Knowledge and Global Power: Making new sciences in the South (published by Wits University Press), which I co-authored with Fran Collyer, Raewyn Connell