People's Knowledge and Participatory Action Research
Escaping the White-Walled Labyrinth

Paper: 978 1 85339 932 9 / $29.95
Published: January 2017  

Cloth: 978 1 85339 939 8 / $75.95
Published: July 2017  

Publisher: Practical Action
146 pp., 6 1/8" x 9 1/5"
Series: Reclaiming Diversity and Citizenship
The world of research run by universities and other institutions is dominated by a culture that is white, upper-middle class and male. When people from communities that have previously been excluded are asked to take part in research – even participative research -- they are seldom able to do so on equal terms. Instead of being supported to draw on the expertise that they have gained from their life experience, they find themselves trapped in a "white-walled labyrinth."

People’s Knowledge and Participatory Action Research opens up a new realm of understanding, one that has been created by authors who are mainly non-academics, and who bring their own perspectives on the production and validation of knowledge. The book attempts to address some of the tensions between traditional and more participatory approaches to research by exploring three questions: What kinds of oppression can take place when people who experience exclusion work with professional researchers? How can knowledge be truly co-produced in a spirit of mutual learning and respect? What are the most promising approaches to build future alliances for creating a "people's knowledge" that treats equally the professional researcher and those whose expertise comes from their life experience?

The book ends with some signposts for transforming participatory and action-orientated approaches to research in order to achieve social and environmental justice.

This book should be read by all those interested in research for social and environmental justice in general, and participatory and action approaches to research in particular, including in the fields of: community development; health and medicine; international development; education; local and national government; anti-racism; human rights; women’s studies; citizen science; and community arts.

The Reclaiming Diversity and Citizenship Series seeks to encourage debate outside mainstream policy and conceptual frameworks on the future of food, farming, land use and human well-being. The opportunities and constraints to regenerating local food systems and economies based on social and ecological diversity, justice, human rights, inclusive democracy, and active forms of citizenship are explored in this book series. Contributors to the Reclaiming Diversity and Citizenship Series are encouraged to reflect deeply on their ways of working and outcomes of their research, highlighting implications for policy, knowledge, organizations, and practice.

Table of Contents:
1. Learning at the University of Armageddon
2. Spinning a web of connection in the "white walled-labyrinth"
3. Examining our differences: from girl’s group to women’s circle and beyond
4. Cultivating an anti-racist position in a post-race society
5. Poems
6. A process for writing a paper that investigates why the proposed paper was not written
7. Poems
8. Community arts in a post-industrial age: the cultural politics of participatory film-making with communities on the edge
9. What can co-produced research accomplish for social justice?
10. LiverNorth: combining individual and collective patient knowledge
11. The original citizen scientists
12. Signposts for People’s Knowledge

Reviews & Endorsements:
"People's knowledge and participatory action research offers a radical exploration of the deep knowledge held within communities under siege by neoliberalism and traditional forms of science; the dedicated refusal to surrender this knowledge to the hegemonic gaze of "experts", grip of white supremacy or bribes of corporate interests, and the joy and delicacies of engaging in participatory research for justice. A must read for community-based researchers and even more so for academics deluded by fantasies of expertise. Congratulations!!"
- Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Social Psychology, Women’s Studies and Urban Education, City University of New York