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Fostering horizontal knowledge co-production with Indigenous people by leveraging researchers' transdisciplinary intentions

David Manuel-Navarrete, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Christine N. Buzinde, School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University
Tod Swanson, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Arizona State University


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Transdisciplinarity involves knowledge co-production with non-academics. This co-production can be horizontal when equal consideration is given to the contributions from different knowledges and ways of knowing. However, asymmetric power relations and colonial patterns of behavior, which are deeply rooted in academic culture, may hinder horizontality. Using Icek Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behavior, we elicited and analyzed the attitudes, perceptions, and behavioral intentions towards knowledge co-production of a team of seven Ecuadorian biologists while they were conducting fieldwork in Indigenous communities. All biologists acknowledged the benefits of collaborating with indigenous people. However, researchers with less fieldwork experience held unfavorable attitudes towards knowledge co-production. While all criticized the colonial biases of Ecuadorian society, more experienced participants were the only ones who perceived colonial dynamics as intrinsic to dominant scientific practices, and who expressed favorable attitudes towards horizontal co-production. They also perceived lower social pressure against co-production and greater behavioral control (i.e., greater confidence in their ability to perform co-production) than their peers; all of which confirmed their stronger behavioral intention to perform transdisciplinary co-production. Our analysis identified three structural factors affecting researchers' intentions: (1) disciplinarity predispositions acquired through formal education, (2) lack of decolonial approaches in academic curricula, and (3) pressures in academia to do more in less time. Personal decisions by more experienced participants, such as voluntarily engaging with transdisciplinary training or cultivating personal connections with Indigenous culture, appeared to be key enablers of horizontal forms of co-production. Understanding researchers' behavioral intentions might be key to seize, or waste, the decolonization opportunities brought about by the rapid advance of transdisciplinarity that is taking place in fields like sustainability or conservation science.

Key words

co-production of knowledge; Indigenous knowledge; transdisciplinary; horizontal co-production; decolonization

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087