The New Knowers: : How Young People Subvert Socio-Epistemic Structures Through Participation in Popular Culture and Literacy Practices Online
I came home from school one day to find my father and uncle Padam sitting beside the beautifully decorated “muth” (a raised platform for the Tulasi plant in the front yard) that mom, sister and I had just built. I said “namaste” to the guest and stood on dad’s side. I had no plan to join the adults’ conversation, since that wasn’t appropriate for a mere twelve year old in a South Asian culture like ours, but when the grown-ups were completely wrong, I had to speak:
Uncle Padam: Brother, you have great artistic skills, you know. Look how beautiful that “muth” is!
Daddy: [smiles and continues smoking]
Me: No, uncle, dad didn’t build that. Mom did, and sister and I helped her decorate it.
Uncle: Hey, phuchche [little kid], don’t be a janne [knower]. Go to play.
I just came from a dinner at a neighbor’s where a small group of Nepalese intellectuals had a lively discussion about modern western science VERSUS traditional eastern wisdom on the subject of health. Mainly, a scientist entertained the guests with his interesting medical explanations of traditional folk wisdom/practices about health. If you have wondered about the “medical” reasons for men putting their janai over their ears while passing their bowels, you would love to hear this scholar.
In spite of the “interesting” quality of medical explanations, I was disturbed by the binary oppositions our scientist created between science and wisdom, west and east, and even modern and traditional. I found this disturbing because it is typical of a lot of Nepalese intellectuals to use AND reject science at the same time, to try to argue that science does not belong to us but “them”… this danger to the advancement of our own local epistemology is my issue here. Continue reading