People’s Knowledge…Escaping the White-walled Labyrinth


Resource authors: People’s Knowledge Editorial Collective

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.

The book has been published by Practical Action Publishing as an e-book.  It will be available in print in January 2017.  You can download a copy from the link below:

People’s Knowledge and Participatory Action Research Book (PDF 3.6MB)

Print copies available from Practical Action Publishing.


Introduction Editorial collective

  1. Learning at the University of Armageddon Anonymous contributions
  2. Making connections in the “white-walled labyrinth” Mayra Guzman, Cedoux Kadima, Grace Lovell, Asha Ali Mohamed, Ros Norton, Federico Rivas and Alpha Thiam
  3. Examining our differences Asha Ali Mohamed, Asma Istwani, Beatriz Villate, Emilia Ohberg, Eva Galante, Fatma Mohamed, Ijaba Ahmed, Hinda Mohamed Smith, Lucy Pearson, Mayra Guzman, Salma Istwani, Shanti Sakar, Susanna Hunter-Darch and Tamanna Miah
  4. Cultivating an anti-racist position in post-race society Jasber Singh
  5. Poems Chris JaM
  6. A puzzling search for authenticity in academia Lucy Pearson, Javier Sanchez Rodriguez and Asha Ali Mohamed
  7. Community media and cultural politics on Tyneside Hugh Kelly with Graham Jeffrey
  8. A civil rights activist reflects on research David Clay
  9. LiverNorth: combining individual and collective patient knowledge Tilly Hale
  10. The original citizen scientists Editorial collective with paintings from Haiti by Michel Lafleur
  11. Signposts for people’s knowledge Tom Wakeford
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