"Human Vulnerability, Knowledge Industry and Alternative Systems of Knowledge: Reflections on Human Security in an Era of Violence, Epidemics, and Environmental Disasters"

Speaker: Komatra Chuengsatiansup (Visiting Professor)
Date:17:00-18:30, April 5 (Tue), 2005
Venue: Lecture Room #1, 4F, Engg. Dept. Building #4.

This paper examines the condition of human security in the contemporary contexts of violence, epidemics, and environmental disasters. I argue that understanding these threats to humanity within a reductionistic worldview has reduced these interrelated aspects of human security into an isolated notion of “risk.” Although such an approach seems logically necessary for technical “risk management,” it is a mode of thinking distinctive to Western scientific paradigm. In knowledge traditions other than Western scientific thinking, peace, health, and ecological sustainability is understood in its complex interrelation. As a technical quick fix, such a holistic view is undeniably ineffective.

It is nonetheless valuable in suggesting different ways of looking at human security. One important point of difference is that while the concept of vulnerability is a central emphasis in various knowledge traditions, its existential presence is denied and marginalized in modern thinking. I propose that viewing human existence as vulnerable is not necessarily a fatalistic resignation or giving up of hope. Rather, the acceptance of human vulnerability is crucial for creating a much needed sensibility to common human suffering. Such a sensibility could serve as an epistemological basis for alternative systems of knowledge essential for current condition of humanity. The last part of the paper analyzes structural biases of contemporary “knowledge industry.”

Current system of knowledge production and utilization is revealed as containing three types of biases, namely epistemological, institutional, and cultural/linguistic bias, which are the main obstacles toward a more integrated approach in achieving global human security.

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