Knowledge Co-Production in Scientific and Activist Alliances: Unsettling Coloniality

  • Marta Conde University Pompeu Fabra
  • Mariana Walter Universitat Autonoma Barcelona


This paper examines alliances between scientists and local groups in the context of environmental justice conflicts. We analyze the trajectories of two white male scientific experts collaborating with activist groups in mining and nuclear conflicts around the world. We posit the knowledge co-production processes that take place in these collaborations can challenge (internal and external) power relations and hegemonic discourses around pollution. These collaborations can entail three types of co-production: (i) co-production of knowledge where new technical knowledge is co-created; (ii) co-production of interpretation through which knowledge is contextualized technically and politically; and (iii) the co-production of the mobilization of knowledge where different expertise collaborate in the elaboration of strategies based on their (scientific, local, Indigenous, traditional or experiential) knowledges and networks. Whilst knowledge co-production provides legitimacy and confidence to local groups; knowledge interpretation and its mobilization provide public legitimacy, visibility, and political leverage. This paper unsettles seemingly colonial processes pointing to the importance of locally driven alliances, the collaborative dynamics at play merging local and scientific expertise as well as the motivations and trajectories of scientists and local groups. Our approach makes visible how these alliances are the result of supra-local networks of support that connect scientists with local groups struggling against extractive activities.


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30 May 2022
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