This article examines the specialized knowledge practices of two sets of culturally recognized ‘experts’ in Senegal: Islamic clerics and craftsmen. Their respective bodies of knowledge are often regarded as being in opposition, and in some respects antithetical, to one another. The aim of this article is to examine this claim by means of an investigation of how knowledge is conceived by each party. The analysis attempts to expose local epistemologies, which are deduced from an investigation of ‘expert’ knowledge practices and indigenous claims to knowledge. The social processes of knowledge acquisition and transmission are also examined with reference to the idea of initiatory learning. It is in these areas that commonalities between the bodies of knowledge and sets of knowledge practices are to be found. Yet, despite parallels between the epistemologies of both bodies of expertise and between their respective modes of knowledge transmission, the social consequences of ‘expertise’ are different in each case. The hierarchical relations of power that inform the articulation of the dominant clerics with marginalized craftsmen groups serve to profile ‘expertise’ in different ways, each one implying its own sense of authority and social range of legitimacy.