Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Challenging Silencing in Stigmatized Neighborhoods Through Collaborative Knowledge Production

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Abstract:  Researchers are always potential traitors when they represent what they see or hear. This is of particular concern in the case of people in subaltern positions, who lack the power to challenge possible misrepresentations. This article deals with an old dilemma in critical social science: How to use language when research objects are silenced through dynamics of domination? Is it possible for research to create space for marginalized people to speak for themselves? This was one of the questions of the Université Populaire, a group initiative by actors in a marginalized social housing neighborhood in Grenoble. The community‐based people’s education initiative was created in a double context of violence and silence. As a result of incidents of violence, media coverage participates in depicting the neighborhood as a place of danger and otherness, which impedes voices from the neighborhood from being heard. The initiative of the Université Populaire made space for speech in this marginalized and racialized area of Grenoble dealing with the consequences of terrorist violence in France. It is an initiative the author has been involved in since its inception in 2015. This article explains how the author sought ways to reduce power asymmetry in research relationships, why she steered away from using interviews for data collection and organized public debates instead, and how this made space for speech.

Keywords:  collaborative knowledge production; France; marginalized neighborhoods; postcolonial studies; spaces of speech; subaltern studies; territorial stigmatization



© Claske Dijkema. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.