“Emancipatory Circuits of Knowledge” for Urban Equality: Experiences From Havana, Freetown, and Asia

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access | Ahead of Print | Last Modified: 9 June 2022

“Emancipatory Circuits of Knowledge” for Urban Equality: Experiences From Havana, Freetown, and Asia


  • Stephanie Butcher Melbourne Centre for Cities, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Camila Cociña The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London, UK
  • Alexandre Apsan Frediani International Institute for Environment and Development, UK
  • Michele Acuto Melbourne Centre for Cities, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Brenda Pérez‐Castro Secretariat, Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, Thailand
  • Jorge Peña‐Díaz Faculty of Architecture, Technological University José Antonio Echeverría (CUJAE), Cuba
  • Joiselen Cazanave‐Macías Faculty of Architecture, Technological University José Antonio Echeverría (CUJAE), Cuba
  • Braima Koroma Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre, Sierra Leone / Institute of Geography and Development Studies, Njala University, Sierra Leone
  • Joseph Macarthy Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre, Sierra Leone / Institute of Geography and Development Studies, Njala University, Sierra Leone


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Abstract:  Feminist, Southern, and decolonial thinkers have long argued that epistemological questions about how knowledge is produced and whose knowledge is valued and actioned are crucial in addressing inequalities, and a key challenge for planning. This collaborative article interrogates how knowledge is mobilised in urban planning and practice, discussing three experiences which have actively centred often-excluded voices, as a way of disrupting knowledge hierarchies in planning. We term these “emancipatory circuits of knowledge”—processes whereby diverse, situated, and marginalised forms of knowledge are co-produced and mobilised across urban research and planning, to address inequalities. We discuss experiences from the Technological University José Antonio Echeverría (CUJAE), a university in Havana, Cuba, that privileges a fluid and collaborative understanding of universities as social actors; the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre, a research institute in the city of Freetown, which curates collective and inclusive spaces for community action planning, to challenge the legacies of colonial-era planning; and the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, a regional network across Asia, which facilitates processes of exchange and co-learning which are highly strategic and situated in context, to advance community-led development. Shared across these “emancipatory circuits” are three “sites of impact” through which these partners have generated changes: encouraging inclusive policy and planning outcomes; shifting the planning praxis of authorities, bureaucrats, and researchers; and nurturing collective trajectories through building solidarities. Examining these three sites and their challenges, we query how urban knowledge is produced and translated towards epistemic justice, examining the tensions and the possibilities for building pathways to urban equality.

Keywords:  Asia; co-production; epistemic justice; Freetown; Havana; knowledge translation; participation; planning; urban equality

Published:   Ahead of Print

Issue:   Spatial Knowledge and Urban Planning (Forthcoming)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v7i3.5319


© Stephanie Butcher, Camila Cociña, Alexandre Apsan Frediani, Michele Acuto, Brenda Pérez‐Castro, Jorge Peña‐Díaz, Joiselen Cazanave‐Macías, Braima Koroma, Joseph Macarthy. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.