Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Indigenous versus Official Knowledge, Concepts and Institutions: Raika Pastoralists and the outside World

Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Indigenous versus Official Knowledge, Concepts and Institutions: Raika Pastoralists and the outside World

Article excerpt


The Raika or Rebari probably represent the largest pastoral caste in western India (Agrawal 1993), where they are distributed predominantly in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. In recent years they have been investigated from the angles of religion (Srivastava 1997), decision making institutions (Agrawal 1999), camel pastoral system and economy (K6hler-Rollefson 1992, 1996, 1999), as well as ecological and economic aspects of sheep migration (Kavoori 1999). The attitude of the Rebari in Kutch towards formal education has also been subject to scrutiny (Dyer and Choksi 1997). This article is concerned with their 'indigenous knowledge' (IK) about livestock and how it articulates with the official, state-backed concepts of veterinary and animal scientists about the same subject. 'Indigenous knowledge' is used here in the wider sense, i.e. applied not only to technical expertise, but also to institutions, concepts and value systems.

It has been argued that there exists no fundamental difference per se between indigenous and scientific knowledge (Agrawal 1995). Others have expounded on the potential for integration of the two types of knowledge and hailed 'techno-blending' as the proper path for achieving sustainable and people-oriented development (McCorkle et al. 1999). This article draws attention to the very real divide that often exists between the protagonists of these two types of knowledge. With the help of three main examples we will show how different conceptual frameworks result in a communicatory impasse and how this failure to establish a dialogue across the boundaries of knowledge systems renders the interventions of the Rajasthan government in the livestock production sector largely ineffective. The urgent need for construction of an interface that negotiates and mediates between traditional and academic animal scientists will be demonstrated.


The Raika from Rajasthan are divided into two groups, the Maru and Godwar. The Maru Raika are distributed throughout the state with concentrations around Jodhpur and in Pali district. The Godwar Raika, who were termed Pitalia or Chalkia in the British Gazetteers, inhabit the southern part of Pali district, Jalore and Sirohi districts. Sources from the colonial period describe the Maru Raika as camel breeders and the Godwar Raika as sheep raisers; they also proclaim that the former do not give their daughters in marriage to the latter. From this they deduct a higher status for the Maru Raika. These equations can not be upheld, with both groups herding sheep as well as camels, and any status differential vigorously disputed by the Godwar Raikas. Furthermore, both are endogamous groups and we have never heard about marriages between them. They also have separate decision-making bodies and, although they would seem to have the same interests, they generally do not form political liaisons. This is evident from the Akhil Bharatiya Ram Raika temple in Pushkar which was constructed by the Maru Raika with donations from the Raika samaj (caste community) in Haryana and Punjab. Contributions of the Godwar Raika were refused and it was suggested to them that they purchase a separate plot and build their own temple. The Godwar Raika therefore have no representation at Pushkar and no say in decisions made by the All India Raika committee.

Data Base

This article is based on data collected in the period from November 1990 to the present day during a sequence of projects whose orientation moved from a purely academic endeavour to action research and finally to community development. By the end of 1996, Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan, a local NGO, was established in Sadri, the centre of the project area that espouses the causes and needs of livestock dependent people. Individual projects included the 'Camel Husbandry Improvement Project' (Kohler-Rollefson and Rathore 1996a), the 'Poverty Alleviation Project for Raika Pastoralists' (Kohler-Rollefson and Rathore 1996b) and, presently, 'Empowerment of Pastoralists through Training and Recognition of Traditional Knowledge' (Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan 1999). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.