Travelling knowledges : urban poverty and slum/shack dwellers international
The relationship between knowledge and development is of growing importance in development theory and practice. Despite the growth in interest, there are significant issues that have not been explored in detail. I will focus on some of these issues, including: the ways in which knowledge and learning are conceived and created in development; the ways in which knowledge travels; the opportunities for learning between 'North' and 'South'; and the political spaces that are created through different kinds of knowledge. To explore these issues, I examine a network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) called Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI). This network seeks to reconfigure the governance of urban poverty reduction strategies and encourage poor' people to re-think their own capacities and potentials. In particular, I draw on interview-based fieldwork conducted on one key member of this group, the Indian Alliance based in Mumbai. I critically examine some of the possibilities and challenges of various forms of 'travelling knowledges'. These are strategies that have travelled through exchanges, wherein groups of poor people travel from one settlement to another to share stories and experiences with other poor people in what amounts to an informal 'training' process. By examining exchanges between SDI and groups in the UK, I critically discuss the broader potential in development to move beyond barriers of North and South that limit learning. I adopt a broadly post-rationalist approach to the concerns in the thesis. Through this, I argue the importance of considering knowledge and learning as produced through relations of near and far, social and material, and as driven by routines and practices. A post-rationalist approach helps us to understand and appreciate the importance of geography for knowledge and learning in the SDI network. This approach draws attention to power. It encourages a critical consciousness that is alert to the kinds of knowledge conceived for development, and that recognizes the various ways in which different knowledges help create different types of politics. A post-rationalist approach also cautions against conceptions of knowledge and learning that risk marginalizing geography and power in development more generally. The thesis demonstrates the need to give further consideration of how knowledge is conceived as a development strategy, and what the potential possibilities and pitfalls of travelling knowledges are.