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The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 217–233 | Cite as

A Sociology of International Research Partnerships for Sustainable Development

  • Claudia Zingerli
Original Article

Abstract

In recent years, the partnership concept has shaped not only international development assistance, but also the organisation of knowledge production processes in development research. This article looks beyond the rhetoric of the partnership concept by discussing the institutional conditions and individual choices that shape North–South research collaboration in the context of an international development research network. By drawing on ideas from the Sociology of Knowledge, and by distinguishing among three distinct lenses on power, the article analyses discourses and practices shaping working relations between unequal partners. Research partnerships are not a universal remedy for structural inequalities and epistemological hegemonies. However, they can offer important opportunities for direct encounters between people and institutions from different scientific traditions and policy contexts, which can lead to the emergence of more respectful and reflexive forms of knowledge production in contemporary development research.

Depuis quelques années, le partenariat est un concept essentiel non seulement de l’aide au développement international, mais aussi de l’organisation de la production de connaissances dans le domaine de la recherche sur le développement. Dans cet article nous nous situons au delà du discours sur le concept de partenariat et examinons les conditions institutionnelles et les choix individuels qui déterminent les collaborations Nord-Sud au sein d’un réseau de recherche international pour le développement. En s’inspirant des idées de la sociologie du savoir et en examinant le pouvoir de trois points de vue différents, cet article analyse les discours et les pratiques qui déterminent les relations de travail entre des partenaires inégaux. Le partenariat de recherche n’est pas un remède universel aux problèmes d’inégalités structurelles et d’hégémonie épistémologique. Cependant, les partenariats de recherche offrent d’importantes opportunités de rencontres entre individus et institutions ayant des traditions scientifiques et politiques différentes, ce qui peut faciliter le développement de pratiques de production de savoir plus respectueuses et réflexives dans le domaine de la recherche contemporaine pour le développement.

Keywords

development research north–south research partnerships sociology of knowledge power relations narrative interviews 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This article emerged from the Transversal Package Project ‘Knowledge, Power, Politics’ of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North–South, financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. It would not have been possible to write this article without the detailed and personal accounts of my respondents. I am grateful for valuable comments from the anonymous reviewers of this article. I also benefited from comments by Andrés Uzeda, my colleagues from the Human Geography Unit, University of Zurich, and the organisers and participants of the roundtable discussion on the topic of North–South research partnerships at the EADI Conference 2008, at which this work was originally presented. The views put forward and any errors remain entirely my responsibility.

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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claudia Zingerli
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ZurichZurich

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