Participation, local knowledge and empowerment: researching public space with young people

Jupp, Eleanor (2007). Participation, local knowledge and empowerment: researching public space with young people. Environment and Planning A, 39(12) pp. 2832–2844.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1068/a38204

Abstract

A growing number of reflective and critical voices around participatory research practices have questioned the extent to which power can be transferred to participants through such methods. In this paper I begin by reflecting on everyday difficulties using participatory methods with a group of young people who belonged to a youth forum in Stoke-on-Trent, England. These difficulties point to the way that research spaces constitute contexts which can enable the production of certain kinds of knowledge, and to the way that such contexts are influenced by other spaces where people might be asked to participate and self-represent. For my fieldwork participants, official or government-led initiatives around participation in decision making were often seen as problematic. However, I also argue that the young people drew on more embodied or experiential forms of knowledge in their activities, generated through participation in everyday collective practices and sociability. Such knowledge may not have been articulated but was nonetheless powerful. This suggests new ways of thinking about participation and empowerment, both for research projects and for other kinds of intervention.

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