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Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. Examine the uniqueness of tribal knowledge systems when compared with mainstream knowledge and cultural systems. (150 words)

    28 Feb, 2022 GS Paper 1 Indian Society


    • Start with explaining the tribal knowledge system..
    • Explain how tribal knowledge is unique and different from mainstream knowledge.
    • Conclude suitably. 


    Indigenous peoples around the world have preserved distinctive understandings of their cultural experience that helps them in their survival. These understandings are called the Tribal knowledge or aboriginal knowledge.


    Tribal knowledge systems represent inter-generational wisdom passed on to the present times through centuries of experience and learnings. While similar characteristics can be seen in evolution of mainstream knowledge and culture, tribal knowledge systems are unique as: 

    • Proximity to Nature: Tribal societies have contemporary knowledge of nature due to continued closeness to forests, flora and fauna. Mainstream societies have moved on to agricultural basis of society, and their cultural knowledge represents impressions of their tribal past, which no longer exists. 
    • Source of Knowledge: Mainstream knowledge systems are based on questioning of ideas, science, rationality and evolution process on the other hand tribal methods are based on conservation of knowledge.
    • Transfer of Knowledge: Tribal knowledge is transmitted between generations through stories, songs, dances, carvings, paintings and performances, while mainstream knowledge is preserved in books and recordings. 
    • Type of Learning: Tribal knowledge systems promote integrated learning for the community therefore they believe in producing generalists. But in the mainstream society, knowledge and learning has been disintegrated into specialised subjects and these societies mainly focus on producing specialists.
    • Equality: Tribal knowledge systems are non-exclusionary and marked by equity. Mainstreams knowledge systems are full of barriers like cost of education, patent protections, social exclusion etc. 

    Tribal and mainstream societies are not mutually exclusive systems. Constant interaction and mutual dependence have enriched both. Therefore there should be a bridge of mutual learning for further enrichment of both the societies. 

    However, one thing should be kept in mind that tribal knowledge is at the core of indigenous identity, culture, languages, heritage and livelihoods, and its transmission from one generation to the next must be protected, preserved and encouraged.

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