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Thought for food : epistemologies behind local food in the Blue Mountain Region
Emily R. Aumann
May 9, 2017
Department or Program
Sociology - Environmental Studies
This thesis asks the question, how do Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Western science interact and coexist? It also explores whether elements of Western science are present in the embodiment of TEK and vice versa through a case study of local food producers in the Blue Mountain Region of modern-day southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. Eight semi-structured in-depth interviews with Native and non-Native food producers to allowed me to explore their knowledge. A three-layered theoretical framework comprised of Weber’s hermeneutics, Geertz’s local knowledge, and the hermeneutical horizon helps explain the data. I found that TEK and Western science coexist in this region, and that TEK tends to be most fully present in the Native Americans who practice hunting and gathering. Despite its objective agenda, Western science does not exist separate from culture and meaning-making processes, and cannot fundamentally achieve objectivity because of the social humans who engage with it. My theoretical framework helps explain my findings which indicate that all knowledge, whether more closely aligned with the characteristics of TEK or Western science, exists within and relative to place, which is imbued with meaning and social relationships. This thesis offers a broader critique of the supposed dichotomy between TEK and Western scientific knowledge, and proposes a theoretical revision of scientific knowledge based on observed epistemological compatibility.