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Special Issue "Endangered Human Diversity: Languages, Cultures, Epistemologies"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2012)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Anders Breidlid

Oslo University College, Faculty of Education and International Studies, P.O. Box 4, St. Olavs Plass, N-0130 Oslo, Norway
Website | E-Mail
Interests: international education; education and development; international politics; human rights; HIV/AIDS; indigenous knowledge; African Literature; Sub-Saharan Africa; Cuba; Chile; the US

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue focuses on the threat to human diversity in terms of epistemologies, languages, cultures and traditions. When a language disappears, mankind loses a part of its rich cultural heritage. When cultures and traditions are marginalized it impacts on identity development and construction. Moreover, what are the consequences of the hegemonic role of Western epistemology in terms of human diversity globally? While the answer to this question is often contradictory and multiple, there is a sense that Western hegemonic epistemology does not necessarily play a positive role in preserving linguistic and cultural heterogeneity. On the contrary, the hegemonic Western discourse is often seen to be closely related to what could be called linguistic and cultural imperialism, resulting in the marginalization of peoples’ languages, cultures and epistemologies, particularly in the global South.  It seems necessary to replace the monological focus on Western knowledge production with what Gregory Bateson calls double or multiple descriptions.  Such an approach allows for the incorporation of various linguistic, cultural and epistemological manifestations in the discussions of sustainability, sustainable development and a sustainable future.
There is a need for new conversations and questions about epistemologies, cultures and languages in the global village. Questions of what kind of knowledges and cultures exist, for instance in learning institutions, are seldom asked and problematized, even though there is common knowledge that the traditional knowledges and cultures  of millions of students are dislocated and rubbished. Questions related to the kind of knowledges, traditions and cultures for a sustainable future seldom transcend the Western knowledge universe. To what extent does globalization hinder epistemological, cultural and linguistic diversity?
In this issue of Sustainability we welcome manuscripts which both address issues of human diversity and sustainability from a global perspective, and more localized or micro studies. Manuscripts discussing the impact of globalization on epistemological, cultural and linguistic diversity are particularly welcome.

Prof. Dr. Anders Breidlid
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • Threat to human diversity
  • Western knowledge production and sustainability
  • Globalization and marginalization
  • Languages, cultures and  identity construction
  • Knowledge conservation
  • Cultural sustainability
  • Rare languages
  • Folklore

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Rethinking Education for All
Sustainability 2013, 5(8), 3447-3472; doi:10.3390/su5083447
Received: 8 June 2013 / Revised: 16 July 2013 / Accepted: 1 August 2013 / Published: 13 August 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (761 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The rational for this paper is contextualized within a broader national and international agenda of reaching Education for All (EFA), knowledge transformation and production with an overall focus on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Whose education and whose development is at issue? The
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The rational for this paper is contextualized within a broader national and international agenda of reaching Education for All (EFA), knowledge transformation and production with an overall focus on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Whose education and whose development is at issue? The purpose of this paper is to reconceptualize EFA in a broader developmental context. Definitions of formal-, non-formal and informal education are applied in order to analyze the epistemological perspectives underlying the educational achievements more than two decades after Jomtien in 1990. Concepts of contextualized expansive education and   object-oriented learning will be used to reveal the systemic causes of the challenges the individual actors experience in their daily learning activities. Two case studies further illustrate how a broad stakeholder involvement through collective design and implementation created innovation and educational transformation that contributed to relevant and sustained learning/knowledge and development at an individual and community level. The paper argues that in the current sociocultural context, responses to EFA need to be based on a comprehensive national education strategy, situated in the local context. By creating space for educational innovation, through interaction and negotiation, the confluence of the epistemological lenses characterizing formal, non-formal, and informal learning could ultimately be a strategy to adequately respond to the diversified learning needs of the population and sustainable developmental of the country. One expected outcome of the paper is a contribution to the future strategies of EFA beyond 2015, built on the urgent requirements for inter-professional partnership and collaboration through a multidimensional approach to education and learning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Endangered Human Diversity: Languages, Cultures, Epistemologies)
Open AccessArticle Whose Diversity Counts? The Politics and Paradoxes of Modern Diversity
Sustainability 2013, 5(6), 2495-2518; doi:10.3390/su5062495
Received: 8 April 2013 / Revised: 14 May 2013 / Accepted: 24 May 2013 / Published: 6 June 2013
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (587 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Is “diversity” a modern concept, like indigeneity or biodiversity, which is conceived precisely at the time that it seems to be threatened and on the verge of disappearing? In the face of perceived threats to diversity, projects and policies have been crafted to
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Is “diversity” a modern concept, like indigeneity or biodiversity, which is conceived precisely at the time that it seems to be threatened and on the verge of disappearing? In the face of perceived threats to diversity, projects and policies have been crafted to protect, promote, or conserve diversity, but in doing so they have often demonstrated a paradoxical propensity toward purity and authority in representations of diversity. Perceptions of “pure” natural diversity might represent native forests comprised solely of native species; “pure” cultural diversity might represent indigenous peoples who still speak indigenous languages and wear native dress. If purity is emblematic of diversity, what, then, is the place of hybrid landscapes and peoples? In our study, we draw on a range of examples—of agrobiodiversity conservation in Bolivia, satellite mapping initiatives in Madagascar and Ecuador, scientific authority about anthropogenic climate change, indigenous language and identity in Peru, and a comparison of the Amazon and Atlantic Forest in Brazil—to demonstrate gaps between representations of diversity, and the heterogeneous local realities they obscure. We suggest that hybridity is a form of diversity unto itself—albeit a form of diversity that is more complex, and thus harder to codify and categorize. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Endangered Human Diversity: Languages, Cultures, Epistemologies)
Open AccessArticle Local Languages of Instruction as a Right in Education for Sustainable Development in Africa
Sustainability 2013, 5(5), 1994-2017; doi:10.3390/su5051994
Received: 21 January 2013 / Revised: 8 April 2013 / Accepted: 18 April 2013 / Published: 6 May 2013
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (563 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Today’s educational challenges in Africa have their roots in the colonial education system. The article explores the consequences of linguistic choices for quality education, self-determined development and children’s rights in education. The analysis centers on a case study of a curriculum change in
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Today’s educational challenges in Africa have their roots in the colonial education system. The article explores the consequences of linguistic choices for quality education, self-determined development and children’s rights in education. The analysis centers on a case study of a curriculum change in Zanzibar in which English has replaced Kiswahili as the language of instruction in the last years of primary school in Mathematics and Science subjects. The case study is grounded in an extensive review of theory and practices on the relationship between language of instruction, learning and rights in education. The field study researched the reasons behind the curriculum change, the extent to which schools were prepared for the change, and the consequences of the change for the learning environment. The article, therefore suggests that for the 21st century, Africa should place emphasis on rights policies that promotes not only access, but also inclusion and quality education. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Endangered Human Diversity: Languages, Cultures, Epistemologies)
Open AccessArticle Two Rivers: The Politics of Wild Salmon, Indigenous Rights and Natural Resource Management
Sustainability 2013, 5(2), 478-495; doi:10.3390/su5020478
Received: 31 October 2012 / Revised: 11 January 2013 / Accepted: 16 January 2013 / Published: 31 January 2013
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Abstract
This paper compares two rivers, Tana River in Northern Norway and Columbia River on the northwest coast of the United States of America. Both rivers host indigenous populations, the Sámi and the Nez Perce, whose cultural and material existence depends upon salmon. Because
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This paper compares two rivers, Tana River in Northern Norway and Columbia River on the northwest coast of the United States of America. Both rivers host indigenous populations, the Sámi and the Nez Perce, whose cultural and material existence depends upon salmon. Because these people live indigenously within highly industrial, postcolonial societies, their lives have been part of larger economic, political and legal structures for substantial periods of time. In these rivers, peoples have been, and are currently dealing with the possibility of salmon extinction. This article is concerned with how such a crisis has been interpreted and acted upon within two nation’s natural-resource management regimes. We observe how the threat of extinction has initiated commotion where nature, economies, legal instruments, politics and science have come into play, in ways that reveal differences in the Norwegian and American constellations of interests and powers, manifested as differences in natural resource management regimes’ hierarchies of positions. The outcome is the protection of different entities, which could be labeled cultural and biological sustainability. In the Columbia River, cultural sustainability was promoted while in the Tana, biological sustainability became prioritized. By way of our comparison we ask if the protection of one kind of sustainability has to be to the detriment of the other. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Endangered Human Diversity: Languages, Cultures, Epistemologies)
Open AccessArticle Rumors of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Archaeological Perspectives on Culture and Sustainability
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 100-122; doi:10.3390/su5010100
Received: 5 November 2012 / Revised: 14 December 2012 / Accepted: 17 December 2012 / Published: 7 January 2013
PDF Full-text (223 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Predictions of the imminent demise of Indigenous cultures have circulated among Western intellectuals for more than two hundred years. Capitalism, Christianity, and Western civilization were thought by 19th century scholars to be on the verge of eradicating global cultural variation. Contemporary scholars have
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Predictions of the imminent demise of Indigenous cultures have circulated among Western intellectuals for more than two hundred years. Capitalism, Christianity, and Western civilization were thought by 19th century scholars to be on the verge of eradicating global cultural variation. Contemporary scholars have revived these views, suggesting that not only were Indigenous cultures about to succumb to Western hegemony, these forces were poised to bring about the end of history itself. What unites these perspectives are an ideology stressing asymmetrical power relations between the West and Indigenous cultures, and the proposition that only Western intervention is capable of rescuing Indigeneity. This paper examines the current crisis of Indigenous cultural sustainability, arguing that the epistemology informing many of these perspectives remain largely unchanged from their 19th century precursors. Citing case studies in archaeology and cultural heritage management, I suggest a ground-up approach to cultural sustainability in which Western institutions and individuals serve only the expressed desires and at the invitation of Indigenous peoples. Such restraint represents both recognition of Indigenous sovereignty regarding all cultural preservation efforts, as well as the dynamic, ever-changing nature of culture itself. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Endangered Human Diversity: Languages, Cultures, Epistemologies)
Open AccessArticle Monocropping Cultures into Ruin: The Loss of Food Varieties and Cultural Diversity
Sustainability 2012, 4(11), 2970-2997; doi:10.3390/su4112970
Received: 21 July 2012 / Revised: 30 September 2012 / Accepted: 29 October 2012 / Published: 7 November 2012
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (333 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The loss of genetic diversity of thousands of plants and crops has been well documented at least since the 1970s, and has been understood as a result of epistemological and political economic conditions of the Green Revolution. The political economic arrangement of the
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The loss of genetic diversity of thousands of plants and crops has been well documented at least since the 1970s, and has been understood as a result of epistemological and political economic conditions of the Green Revolution. The political economic arrangement of the Green Revolution, alongside a post-war focus on economies of scale and export-oriented growth, replace high-yield single varieties of crops for a diverse array of varieties that may not have the same yield, but may be able to resist pests, disease, and changing climatic conditions. Also, the harvest does not flow in all directions equally: Whereas small holder subsistence farming uses a large variety of crops as a food source and small-scale trade, the industrial economic system requires simplified, machine harvested ship-loads of one variety of maize, for example. Diverse varieties of different crops confound the machines, whereas one variety of wheat can be harvested with one setting on a machine. However, none of this is new. The purpose of this article is to analyze how the twin concerns of lost varietals and lost cultures are bound together in the socio-political process of standardization, and to explain some areas of resistance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Endangered Human Diversity: Languages, Cultures, Epistemologies)
Open AccessArticle “The Gong Gong Was Beaten” —Adamorobe: A “Deaf Village” in Ghana and Its Marriage Prohibition for Deaf Partners
Sustainability 2012, 4(10), 2765-2784; doi:10.3390/su4102765
Received: 31 August 2012 / Revised: 3 October 2012 / Accepted: 12 October 2012 / Published: 22 October 2012
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (217 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Adamorobe is a village in Ghana where the historical presence of a hereditary form of deafness resulted in a high number of deaf inhabitants. Over the centuries, a local sign language emerged, which is used between deaf and hearing people in everyday life,
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Adamorobe is a village in Ghana where the historical presence of a hereditary form of deafness resulted in a high number of deaf inhabitants. Over the centuries, a local sign language emerged, which is used between deaf and hearing people in everyday life, rendering Adamorobe into a unique place of inclusion of deaf people. However, in 1975, a law was introduced to reduce the number of deaf people in Adamorobe: deaf people cannot marry each other in order to avoid deaf offspring. In the long term, this law threatens the linguistic and cultural diversity in this village where the use of sign language is omnipresent and where deaf people are perceived as fully productive and worthy members of society. This article is structured around two sets of tensions in the village, Firstly, hearing people’s acceptance and inclusion of the deaf inhabitants, versus the wish to live in a village with no (or less) deaf people. Secondly, there is a tension between deaf people’s subjection to, and resistance against, the law, this is a tension that can be observed in the existence of relationships between deaf partners, and abortions when these unions lead to pregnancies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Endangered Human Diversity: Languages, Cultures, Epistemologies)
Open AccessArticle Globalization, Latin American Migration and Catalan: Closing the Ring
Sustainability 2012, 4(10), 2498-2512; doi:10.3390/su4102498
Received: 16 July 2012 / Revised: 23 August 2012 / Accepted: 31 August 2012 / Published: 1 October 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (180 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article examines the effects of globalization dynamics on the use of Catalan among Latin American migrants living in Catalonia. The globalization process pushes towards an increasing mobility of workers and companies. Barcelona is one of the cities where this dynamic has been
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This article examines the effects of globalization dynamics on the use of Catalan among Latin American migrants living in Catalonia. The globalization process pushes towards an increasing mobility of workers and companies. Barcelona is one of the cities where this dynamic has been more evident in the last two decades, with big areas of the city being reshaped in order to suit the needs of global capital. At the same time, Catalonia has been receiving vast numbers of Latin American migrants who already speak Spanish, one of the official languages of the region, but not the other, Catalan. This article will examine the conflicting pressures experienced by those migrants both in the labor market and in their communities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Endangered Human Diversity: Languages, Cultures, Epistemologies)

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