1. wow, there are so many things to like about this post:

    It rings so true that the ownership of knowledge is hierarchical. I’m sure there is not a single kid in Nepal who was not frustrated at some point by this hierarchical structure. Also true that facebook, twiter, and other mediums are providing outlets to young people. We have broken through the barriers of formal and obvious hierarchies through these mediums. However, the informal ones remain, for example, who controls official and authoritative knowledge?

    Being a woman, the subject of control of knowledge has been very very interesting to me, as I see that our perceptions of women are shaped by centuries of male control over formal and informal knowledge, eg, literature and social rules. But you have generalized that idea and shown that it applies to every other thing as well.

    Who controls what opinions are printed in textbooks, official information booklets, and newspapers, which end up defining our opinions? Newspapers, televisions, and other disseminators of mass media are specially interesting in this context, because though they are not so direct as a visible socio-epistemological structure (as you call it), they still end up forming and orienting our opinions, because they are more willingly imbibed than information passed down through the hierarchical structure. It takes centuries to even recognize their influence, let alone eradicate them. You have mentioned that even in developed nations, these socio epistemological hierarchies do exist, and I would assume that these hierarchies are established through these subtle means. Though the young people have means of fighting direct hierarchies, today’s dangerous knowledge controllers are more subtle. In my opinion, the individuals and groups on top of this hierarchy today are those who control mass media and have the resources (money and power) to create enticing images that pass down their ideology oh so subtly. That was a great post, as you can see from the comment, it has touched a chord!!!! Thank you Shyam, and keep posting such thought provoking articles!!

  2. Sewa, thank you for your kind note. I’d like to respond to one point in your comment: “But you have generalized that idea and shown that it applies to every other thing as well.” You are right that I have started out by generalizing things quite a bit, and I agree that we need to look at how the phenomenon of knowledge structure may differ significantly in different settings where different “identities” are involved and we may also need to consider what the stakes are. Even when I generalize that men dominate against women in the structure, I quickly remember that my dad was a great exception to that structure. While mom would say “ए ठुला, जा त फूलमा पानी हालेर आइज!” dad had a far more “democratic” approach: “फूलमा पानी हाल्न पाए राम्रो हुन्थ्यो |” I don’t have a more “epistemological” example, but I mean I could share my ideas with dad far more confidently than with mom; I could disagree with him; and he would take my ideas far more seriously. So the power structure in the family–with all the variations due to personality, role relations, and so on–can overwrite what may be generalized as characteristic of the larger culture. The same would be true about the interaction of any internal dynamism of two or more forces involved in a situation.
    The same is true about the generalization of the old space vis-a-vis the new/alternative spaces, because as you say, the new spaces can be doing the same old thing in apparently acceptable but actually objectionable ways. This of course brings Facebook to mind, the mindless monster that pretends to know what’s in your best interest while deciding it all for you. As we notice when another application wants you to “allow access” to Facebook, we know how much of your personal information–your family, friends, birthday, photos and videos, your behavior online, the semantics in your messaging, what you “like” and so on and so forth–this big brother already owns as its own (in exchange of, I admit, a convenient way to keep in touch).
    So, yeah, we should be careful not to generalize either of these issues. But by using the convenient (albeit unreliable) tools of anecdote and analogy, I was trying to highlight the phenomenon. I will keep your sophisticated/nuanced points in mind when writing futures posts. You’re really encouraging me to share more of what are on my mind.

  3. Very interesting thought on the “socio-epistemic” structure knowing from the hinterlands of Nepal but inevitably piercing into the universal phenomenon of the power dynamics of knowledge. Kudos to the writer for beginning this critical conversation that highlights the need of alternative ways for knowledge construction and authenticity. I enjoyed reading this article today when my son said Facebook is old. What? I hope not but he said that new generation is spending more time in Instagram than in Facebook. Well, that may or may not be true but he made me think. That’s something to figure out but I am still trying to be an active participant on Facebook for communication.
    Just to add a similar scenario, I remember the “Thalu Dai” of Dailekh who was such a jolly good fellow and a character supposed to be the “knower” of the village. Public did turn to him if they needed any new information. Thalu Dai had an interesting dual role: one among the government employees from various offices and other among his fellow men in the village. From the first participation as a government employee himself he used to obtain all the “official” knowledge of what’s going on and then when he returned to his home and neighbors his second role with the big voice. Because he knew it all and hence his title “Thalu” meaning “janne” or “knower” and thereby “powerful” or “judge” if need be!

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Uttam. I agree with your son–and there’s already research/evidence–that younger folks like him are not as much on Facebook as the likes of us. I don’t think this spells any doom for Fb, because it has deep roots in business as well as culture/society across the world. But I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how the generational dynamics plays out.
      You are right about the socio-epistemic power dynamics in any society. In Western cultures, it is called “ethos”: if you are a certain person (with a certain identity) then what you say is perceived differently. Every society has its own ways of creating thalu dais (I’m smiling to think about the connotations of “thalu” in Nepali– does the word mean the same thing in Dailekh as it does in, say, Kathmandu?).

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