Science in community environmental struggles: Lessons from community environmental monitors, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu
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Narayan, S. & Scandrett, E. (2014) Science in community environmental struggles: Lessons from community environmental monitors, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu. Community Development Journal, 49(4), pp. 557-572.
Critical community development relies on a sociological understanding of knowledge although the sociology of scientific knowledge in community development is under-researched. Literature on the public understanding of science, and even people's science movements, has tended to focus on communication between specialist scientists and a lay public who, at best, co-produce knowledge with scientists. Seldom are communities in struggle considered as generators of scientific knowledge. Even more rarely considered are the material interests embedded in scientific knowledge that result from the economic location of the generators of knowledge. This paper draws on the experience of a community in Tamil Nadu, South India, that has been mobilizing against the polluting impacts of industrial development. The SIPCOTArea Community Environmental Monitors have been generating scientific knowledge by building on indigenous knowledge through the systematization of observation. This praxis has also transformed community members' relationship with specialist scientists and increased their knowledge of science, not only as an authoritative yet contested knowledge on which conflicts over development may be resolved, but also as a social process embedded in conflicting relations of production.