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The Merging of Knowledge

People in Poverty and Academics Thinking Together

Research Group, Fourth World-University - Contributions by Paul Bouchet and Joseph Wresinski

This book relates the success of a seemingly impossible challenge: to have a group of academics and people living in persistent poverty conduct research together. What conditions can the knowledge drawn from poverty cross with academic rigor? What type of knowledge does this collaboration result in? This is what The Merging of Knowledge presents in terms of the processes of The Fourth World-University program and the result of its five groups of work: history, family, knowledge, work and human activity, and citizenship.

The results featured in this book can be appreciated on many levels. At the level of content, this unique collaboration offers knowledge from the very poor regarding their lives that is neglected or misunderstood in fields as varied as history, family sociology, work sociology, and political science. This "voice of the voiceless" is brought to the book by collaborative writing and is presented with the academics' methodological and epistemological contribution. At the level of gathering and understanding the information collected, the very poor are often given the role as "witnesses" of poverty in interviews. Here, as researchers, they contribute to rigorously examined content that illuminates their situations.
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University Press of America / Fourth World-Univ Research Group (Upa)
Pages: 502Size: 6 x 9
978-0-7618-3751-0 • Paperback • August 2007 • $64.99 • (£44.95)
Fourth World-University Research Group is a group of community activists from very poor communities; practitioners in social change; members of the Fourth World Movement; and academics in the humanities and sciences. Training programs involving academics, professionals (from the fields of health, education, social work, etc.) and people living in poverty are initiated by Fourth World-University Research Group.
Part 1 Preface
Chapter 2 General Introduction
Part 3 I: History: From Shame to Pride
Chapter 4 Introduction
Chapter 5 The Group's Approach
Chapter 6 Different Viewpoints
Chapter 7 Understanding Poverty from Within
Chapter 8 Turnaround
Chapter 9 From the People of Poverty to the People of the Fourth World
Chapter 10 Conclusion
Part 11 Appendix
Part 12 II: Family: The Family Plan and Time
Chapter 13 Introduction
Chapter 14 Approach
Chapter 15 The Family
Chapter 16 Time and Continuance in the Family Plan
Chapter 17 Between Planning and Crisis: A division within Family Time
Chapter 18 Is the Family Project a Stepping Stone to Entering Society?
Chapter 19 Conclusions
Part 20 Appendix
Part 21 III: Knowledge: Freeing Knowledge!
Chapter 22 Introduction
Chapter 23 Methodological Approach
Chapter 24 Academic Knowledge
Chapter 25 Knowledge Gained from Life Experience
Chapter 26 Knowledge Born of Action and Personal Commitment
Chapter 27 Conclusion
Part 28 Appendix
Part 29 IV: Work and Human Activity: Hidden Talents
Chapter 30 Introduction
Chapter 31 Methodology
Chapter 32 A Description of Some Skills
Chapter 33 Skills Analysis
Chapter 34 Education and Training
Chapter 35 Recognition
Chapter 36 Conclusion
Part 37 Appendix
Part 38 V: Citizenship: Representation and Extreme Poverty
Chapter 39 Introduction
Chapter 40 Methodology
Chapter 41 Definitions of Representation
Chapter 42 Means of Representation
Chapter 43 Representation as a Path towards Democracy
Chapter 44 Conclusion
Part 45 Appendix
Chapter 46 Views of the Academic Panel
Chapter 47 Initial Evaluation of the Project
Part 48 Appendix: The Thinking of the Poor in a Knowledge That Leads to Combat
Part 49 Glossary
Part 50 Bibliography (from Fourth World Movement)
Part 51 Index
Since the emergence of social science in the 19th-century, there has been much study of poverty and the poor. But until now, no one has attempted to include the poor themselves as equal partners in this intellectual project. The Merging of Knowledge: People in Poverty and Academics is an exemplary beginning in what may well become a new method, and a new philosophy, of social research.
Frances Fox Piven, The City University of New York

The groundbreaking search for useable knowledge of poverty and exclusion described in this unique book demonstrates the role that can be played in the formulation of that knowledge by academics, by professionals, and by the poor themselves. Here, at last, is a deeply serious and innovative effort to blend the special perspectives of academics, professionals, and the poor into a new and respectful synthesis. This book demonstrates what it takes to really hear and use what each participant (and especially the poor) brings to the table. Every reader—student, teacher, researcher, professional, activist, policy maker—will think differently about what contributes to knowledge after reading this book.
Harold Richman, Hermon Dunlap Smith Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago; founding director of the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the U

People living in poverty are capable of reflection, expression, and analysis. For me, this is not an hypothesis but an observation. This book, The Merging of Knowledge, is the story of an encounter of two approaches to knowledge, one weighted towards experience, the other toward interpretation. This encounter makes me realize that we need to replace an abstract philosophy of the social with a concrete philosophy of persons who act.
Alain Touraine, Ecole des Hautes, Etudes de Sciences Sociales

In modern society, poverty is not just a matter of economics or social isolation. It is also a two-fold cultural exclusion. First, it is an exclusion of the poor from the knowledge of society. Second, it is the exclusion of the poor's own knowledge of society. Through the collective effort of academics and individuals living in extreme poverty to understand each other, this 'emerging of knowledge' yields important new insights on questions of history, family, knowledge, work, and citizenship. Essential reading for anyone concerned with poverty today.
William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University