In situ solutions, participatory practices and the inclusion of community knowledge have become key ingredients in urban upgrading policies across the world. Knowledge, however, is not neutral, but value-laden, representing different and conflicting interests. Including community-based knowledge, therefore, is far from straightforward. To understand the politics of urban development interventions, a deeper conceptualisation of the relationship between knowledge and power is required. This article tries to contribute to this conceptualisation through an empirical analysis of informal settlement upgrading. Specifically, it interrogates the role of community knowledge in urban development through a study of two informal settlements in Cape Town. Findings from this qualitative research contradict the notion of a unified community whose ‘community knowledge’ can be engaged with. In both settlements, knowledge politics have resulted in tensions within the settlement, creating new interest groups and knowledge alliances, showing the complex interconnectedness of knowledge, power and mobilisation. As knowledge has been built, used, exchanged and contested to upgrade livelihoods, this knowledge has been standing in a mutually constitutive relationship with collective action.
The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12132-015-9258-4