Knowledge guardianship, custodianship and ethics: a Melanesian perspective
© The Author(s) 2020. Across the world, knowledge communities categorise and attach conditions of guardianship to different kinds of knowledge. For private or secret knowledge, those responsible for its care have obligations for arranging and restricting transmission to ensure community survival. While an insider/outsider positionality is often used to navigate this knowledge area, a binary approach is unhelpful. Taking a more relational reading of positionality, we support a dynamic understanding of the transmission of restricted knowledge, using relevant principles of guardianship or custodianship. Based on a Melanesian Solomon Islands tribe, the study sketches a set of principles and shows how they operate in practice. Our intents are to honour the contribution that Melanesian thought makes to rethinking research dichotomies regarding secret knowledge, that readers appreciate the dynamic nature of knowledge guardianship, and that this case study enhances the discussion on ethical entitlement to, or restriction of, Indigenous knowledge in the Pacific region and beyond.