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Between hope and hype: Traditional knowledge(s) held by marginal communities


  • Siriwardane, Rapti
  • Winands, Sarah


Traditional Knowledge (TK) systems have always been integral to the survival and adaptation of human societies. Yet, they enjoy a fairly recent recognition and popularization by scientists, the media, politicians, corporates and the wider public. In this paper we present a typology of key driving forces behind the popularization of TK held by marginal communities: an equality preference motive, a value motive, a compliance motive, a scarcity motive and a strategic motive. Secondly, through the use of a simple model, we discuss the hype’s impact on marginal communities. Moreover, we critically assess the outcome of a number of policy instruments that intend, in part, to protect traditional knowledge bases of such communities. Our analysis primarily draws upon secondary literature; policy documents and case studies within economics, the social sciences, conservation biology and legal studies. We argue that whilst the public and institutional hype around TK may have resulted in its prioritization within international conventions and frameworks, its institutionalization may have adversely impacted marginalized communities, and in particular contexts, unintentionally led to the creation of “new” marginals. We purport that the traditional innovation incentive motive does not hold for protecting TK within a private property regime. Instead we identify a conservation incentive motive and a distribution motive that justify deriving policy instruments that focus on TK to protect marginal communities.

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  • Siriwardane, Rapti & Winands, Sarah, 2013. "Between hope and hype: Traditional knowledge(s) held by marginal communities," Working Papers 151401, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:ubonwp:151401

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Husmann, Christine & von Braun, Joachim & Badiane, Ousmane & Akinbamijo, Yemi & Abiodun, Fatunbi Oluwole & Virchow, Detlef, 2015. "Tapping Potentials of Innovation for Food Security and Sustainable Agricultural Growth: An Africa-Wide Perspective," Working Papers 228855, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    2. Mbaye, Linguere Mously & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2016. "Natural Disasters and Human Mobility," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 10(1), pages 37-56, November.
    3. Iskandar, Deden Dinar & Gatzweiler, Franz, 2014. "An optimization model for technology adoption of marginalized smallholders: Theoretical support for matching technological and institutional innovations," Working Papers 182495, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    4. Baumuller, Heike, 2013. "Mobile Technology Trends and their Potential for Agricultural Development," Working Papers 160565, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    5. Schädler, Manuel & Gatzweiler, Franz W., 2013. "Institutional Environments for Enabling Agricultural Technology Innovations: The role of Land Rights in Ethiopia, Ghana, India and Bangladesh," Working Papers 159373, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).

    More about this item


    traditional knowledge; marginality; common property regime; social welfare; community participation; Community/Rural/Urban Development; Food Security and Poverty; Institutional and Behavioral Economics; D6; D8; J15; O34; Z13;

    JEL classification:

    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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