Accepted paper:

Knowledge matters


Diana Mitlin (University of Manchester)
Philipp Horn (University of Sheffield)
Jhono Bennett (University of Johannesburg)
Sophie King (University of Sheffield)
George Masimba (Dialogue on Shelter)

Paper short abstract:

We analyse the coproduction of knowledge between academics and urban social movements using empirical evidence to uncover tensions in these relations. Recognising the value in such approaches, we explore the power dynamics that challenge efforts to realise shared collaborative commitment.

Paper long abstract:

This paper contributes to recent discussions on the coproduction of knowledge through partnerships between academics and non-academics. Drawing on experiences derived from collaboration to generate knowledge about urban practice in the global South, we argue that academics are insufficiently self-critical about the power dynamics involved in knowledge production with civil society groups including social movements. Ethnographic research shows that five key issues need to be addressed for more equitable relations in knowledge production to be established. First, alternative theories of change must be recognised even if they cannot be reconciled. Second, the relative status of academics vis-à-vis non-academics must be interrogated, and better understood. Third, fair allocations of resources need to be agreed. Fourth, the accountabilities of the researchers to the marginalized need to be established. Fifth, the contribution of social movement leaders to university activities including teaching needs to be institutionalised. The focus of the paper - on urban research and practice - is a context in which - in addition to academic work influence policy and programming - professional knowledge, validated and certified by academic institutions, forms the basis for urban planning and management. Outcomes are contested as low-income residents struggle to maintain well-located homes and secure essential services at affordable costs, and elites seek to manage urban land and commodity production processes to accumulate wealth and extract profits. Some of the points discussed in this paper related to urban specificities and others are more general.

panel D5
Ethics, justice, and the practice of development research [paper]