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Power relations in participatory research and community development: a case study from northern England

Hampshire, K.; Hills, E.; Iqbal, N.


E. Hills

N. Iqbal


This paper explores power relations within a participatory health and social needs project that took place in a South Asian community in northern England. The project involved a number of different individuals and agencies, each of which began with a rather different combination of interests, agendas, resources, and power bases. Drawing on detailed observations made during the project, together with a series of evaluation interviews, we explore the ways in which these were continually re-negotiated, within a context of shifting power relations. We use a theoretical framework, derived from different interpretations of power and knowledge, and from Bourdieu's theories of cultural and symbolic capital, to unravel these processes of change. We find shifts in the balance of power over the course of a project are possible, but are often slow and rather limited, because of the self-perpetuating power of those holding symbolic capital to define and maintain the status quo. We conclude that community participation in health and social action research can never be a single event, but should be regarded as an ongoing, iterative process, which may extend far beyond the official bounds of the project itself.


Hampshire, K., Hills, E., & Iqbal, N. (2005). Power relations in participatory research and community development: a case study from northern England. Human organization, 64(4), 340-349

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 1, 2005
Deposit Date Sep 8, 2008
Journal Human Organization
Print ISSN 0018-7259
Electronic ISSN 1938-3525
Publisher Society for Applied Anthropology
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 64
Issue 4
Pages 340-349
Keywords South Asian, Participatory research, Health services Participation, Power relations, Cultural capital, Community participation.
Publisher URL