Power, knowledge and resistance in the study of social movements.

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This paper will analyse the power relations involved in social movement research, exploring alternative epistemological practices that resist and subvert academic conventions in order to create new modes of knowing. I will critique the production of a knowledge that aims at liberation and emancipation by conducting research 'about' or 'on behalf of' social movements, and I will show how this approach might lead to their very subjection. It will be argued that, in order to avoid the reproduction of power relations they seek to resist, research practices need to go beyond dialectical modes of knowing, departing from assumptions of the subject/object of knowledge, of objective/subjective research and from the hierarchy between theory and praxis. A precedent is found in the research approaches of post-colonial, activist, and queer studies that seek to experiment different modes of knowing, based not on observation and participation, but on learning from the experience of resistance in social movements: in this way resistant practices become an epistemological perspective rather than an object of study, and research can become a tool of resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-60
Number of pages14
JournalContention: The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

Contention is an open access journal, using a Creative Commons license


  • epistemology
  • resistance
  • squatting
  • social movements
  • ethnography
  • activist research


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