The Construction of Cultural Consensus Models to Characterize Ethnogeological Knowledge

Abstract

Limited research interest has been focused on the understanding of culturally framed geology knowledge in comparison with more mature ethnosciences such as ethnobotany or ethnogeography. Ethnogeology is the scientific study of human relationships with and knowledge of the Earth system, generally investigated within the context of a specific culture, through the implementation of field geologic and field ethnographic methods. The purpose of this paper is to present the use of cultural consensus analysis for the exploration of culturally framed knowledge of geological processes. We used rapid assessment methods from the discipline of field ethnography with local cultural consultants, to construct a cultural consensus questionnaire about karst processes and riverine geomorphology in Puerto Rico (PR) and the Dominican Republic (DR). We employed the results from structured interviews and identified common themes that we organized as a cultural consensus model (CCM). Our results indicate a CCM for the knowledge domain of karst processes and riverine geomorphology that is shared by inhabitants of karst regions in DR and PR, which constitutes a reliable system of local ethnogeologic knowledge. Conceptual key elements of the model include use of metaphors and analogies to describe geomorphic processes and speleothem. We discuss the use of rapid assessment and cultural consensus analysis as a method for ethnogeological research, and the implications for place-based geoscience education, participatory research, and geoheritage.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Coming from the indigenous Taíno word referring to a person of the forest.

  2. 2.

    Campesino is the Spanish word for farmer. It is widely used in the Caribbean, especially in the Dominican Republic to substitute jíbaro (PR) or guajíro (Cuba).

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Acknowledgments

We are thankful for the cultural organizations Higuayagua Taino del Caribe Inc. (especially members Jorge Estevez and Leonel De Jesus-Melo) and Naguaké. Thanks for your advice, guidance, and help with fieldwork logistics. We are thankful to every participant that decided to participate voluntarily in this study, but especially to all the “abuelitos” (elders) that shared their knowledge with us.

Funding

Fieldwork for this study was supported by multiple internal funding sources from Arizona State University and by external anonymous donations.

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Correspondence to Angel A. Garcia Jr.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 3 Free Listing Questionnaire
Table 4 Cultural Consensus Questionnaire

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Garcia, A.A., Semken, S. & Brandt, E. The Construction of Cultural Consensus Models to Characterize Ethnogeological Knowledge. Geoheritage 12, 59 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12371-020-00480-5

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Keywords

  • Ethnogeology
  • Caribbean culture
  • Caribbean karst
  • Caribbean ethnography