Reply To: 26.5.2014 Ancient Futures

Author Replies # Posted on May 28, 2014 at 09:13

Erika, I think you raise some really interesting points in your response. Critical thinking is obviously a very important component of research; being able to deconstruct narratives and question their premises enables a more nuanced understanding of the world we live in. However, getting caught up in criticism for it’s own sake can hinder attempts to move beyond discussion and into action. But distinguishing between constructive and ineffectual criticism is very difficult, and I would argue moves us into an ethical gray zone.
Personally, I don’t think that academics should be discouraged from discussing their emotional connections to their fields of study, and openly acknowledging personal sentiments leads to a more honest understanding of knowledge creation. This reflexivity is something anthropologists have embraced as a means of analyzing the process of “writing culture”.
Norberg-Hodge does discuss her role in as a member of the international development community (NGO founder), and her writing style makes it very apparent that she embraces a sort of Ladakh indigenous nobility.
Erika I think you are probably right that Ancient Futures shouldn’t be read as an ethnography of Ladakh or a critique on the global economy, but as a primary resource. I still feel that Norberg-Hodge relies too much on a convenient system of classification between the West and the ancient isolated Ladakh, and it is unfortunate that she substitutes this for a more nuanced discussion. Yet perhaps this is necessary as Norberg-Hodge is a practitioner and is trying to solve the immediate problem of globalization in Ladakh whereas academics value outputs that are open ended, and iterative.
Maybe what I will take away from reading Ancient Futures and this discussion is how can academia be encouraged to offer more useful critiques of development, and how can development practitioners engage with academics without inciting skepticism?