The nature of knowledge concerning the 'urban' in the South

Paul Jenkins, Harry Smith

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    This paper will examine three critical issues facing our perception, approach and action vis-à-vis relevant knowledge for the ‘urban’ in the South within the NAERUS domain: what form of epistemological paradigm is appropriate; what is the nature of the knowledge that we aspire to; and how can we act on this in practice within the existing context(s)?
    Concerning epistemologies, it argues for a social constructivist approach to understanding, with a proactive stance – that is, accepting that knowledge is essentially socially produced and thus the nature of relevant knowledge and its validation needs to be proactively engaged with. This means being aware of who relevant stakeholders are for the definition and production of appropriate knowledge and its validation. By so doing the Northern academic (essentially the domain which NAERUS actors work within) need to challenge the academic paradigms which dominate the validation of knowledge currently and open these to other forms of definition of what is relevant and how it can be validated – while still working within the domain of Northern academia and policy. This is likely to lead to a more praxis-led research, but one clearly contextualized.
    Such an epistemological stance requires stepping back from the existing paradigms of urban development research which have been dominated by Northern intellectuals and re-assessing the focus – i.e. what are seen as ‘problems’ to be addressed. In this the authors argue for a less normative approach than dominates the majority of ‘development’ research, but one which also avoids the relative passivity of some other approaches. The focus thus needs to bring together understanding of longer term processes of urban change and critiques of ‘developmentalism’ and embedded Western/Northern conceptualization of the good ‘urban’ – and avoid short term normative research. Such research will probably be inductive as opposed to deductive and cross the disciplinary as well as theory/practice boundaries which Northern academia erects.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2010
    Event11th Conference of the Network-Association of European Researchers on Urbanisation in the South - Brussels, Belgium
    Duration: 28 Oct 201030 Oct 2010


    Conference11th Conference of the Network-Association of European Researchers on Urbanisation in the South
    Abbreviated title11th N-AERUS Conference 2010
    OtherAssessing and exploring the state of urban knowledge: its production, use, and dissemination in cities of the South.


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