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Human Development &
Capability Association

Agency, Well-Being and Justice

JHDC Call for Papers – Special Issue on Participatory Research



Guest editors:

Alejandra  Boni INGENIO (CSIC-Universitat Politecnica de Valencia), Spain  

Melis Cin, Lancaster University, UK

Carmen Martinez-Vargas,    Higher Education and Human Development Research Group University of the Free State, South Africa

Melanie Walker   Higher Education and Human Development Research Group, University of the Free State, South Africa


Deadline for Submission of Abstracts:  February 28, 2021

Deadline for Submission of Full Papers: June 30, 2021

Expected Publication: February, 2022


Description of Theme:

This special issue call aims to place participatory research practices in conversation with human development dimensions and epistemic freedoms conceptually and empirically.

Participatory research is fundamental in advancing genuinely rooted knowledge and takes into consideration how our research practices can enhance the capabilities of those that engage with us in the co-creation of knowledge. We understand participatory research  interventions as a way of potentially transforming individuals, groups, communities and societies through raising critical consciousness, promoting social change, introducing political and social issues to the public sphere, and even stimulating a social movement at large, but more importantly, contributing to epistemic freedoms and hence epistemic justice in the long run. Such practices and engagement require a dialectal and dialogical process to explore and introduce the experiences of groups whose standpoint is seldom acknowledged, contribute to a counter-narrative, and confront a one-dimensional depiction of stories and ways of knowing.

In addition, international development researchers may sometimes unknowingly reinforce and reproduce knowledge asymmetries, ignoring the knowledges that communities possess or the limits on their own reflexivity in the absence of epistemic humility. Therefore, democratic conditions for co-creation of knowledge from a bottom-up approach should be the governing principle of any kind of epistemic production. As Clark, Biggeri and Frediani (2019:5) attest ‘in practice many attempts to promote, study and report people’s capabilities make no tangible attempt to engage with ordinary people or empower the poor through participatory processes’. So, the point is not simply to engage with participants in what seems to us an empowering experience but to reclaim the open-ended epistemological ground to reshape and align with other conceptions of (well)being, doing and experiencing in ways that can connect with our theoretical positionalities as capabilitarian scholars. This can only be done by considering the valuable knowledge of communities besides ourselves, their epistemic needs and knowledge aspirations but especially opening up participatory and democratic knowledge platforms for connection and the co-creation of knowledge, focusing on those situated on the marginal side of our global and unfair epistemic system. This requires much more than participatory methods, which in many cases can be extractive and instrumental, but participatory methodologies and democratic participatory research processes. It further requires attention more broadly not only to university-community but also to South-North asymmetries of power in knowledge production

Hence, in this special issue, we aim to initiate a provocative conversation of challenging methodological lines that participatory practices have experienced in our capability research area. The point is to bring theoretical and empirical insights - especially from the South - to re-think the limitations of current practices but also the possibilities to advance towards more democratic, decolonial and ethical participatory practices in our scholarly community. Thus, the special issue aims to explore how participatory research has a high potential to identify and document the local (indigenous) knowledge valued by communities and flesh out the episteme produced by local communities, women or vulnerable populations, in addition to case study explorations investigating the capabilities they develop within participatory research processes.

As guest editors, we are keen to invite contributions especially from the Global South, and those scholars who focus on participatory research and epistemic justice, along with the lines of gender, race, class and disability.


We will solicit papers that will address:

-Conceptualising and advancing new participatory research strategies that are capabilities-based and contributing to epistemic capabilities

-Understanding and critically analysing participatory practices in capabilities and human development literature in relation to epistemological debates

-Widening the participatory methodological scope of the CA to consider open-ended epistemological grounds

-Understanding particular participatory research case studies as advancing diverse dimensions of human development and valued human capabilities.

-Presenting and exploring ethical, epistemological and normative dimensions for the application of participatory practices (also beyond methodological applications).

-Exploring decolonial ways of knowing and decolonial epistemology through participatory research

-Investigating challenges, limitations and possibilities of participatory research practice applications to advance capabilities and human development knowledge and research strategies.

Submission Procedure

Please first submit an abstract of 500 words  to Melis Cin ( ) and Carmen Martinez-Vargas   (  no later than February 28. Proposals should include the author name/s, short biographies, affiliation/s and a contact email address. Following review of abstracts, authors will be notified within two weeks of whether a full paper will be invited for submission. Please, note that to be invited for submission does not imply acceptance of papers.

If you are invited to submit a full paper, please submit full papers online at: According to the JHDC’s guidelines for preparing manuscripts, please send the paper identified as “Main Document”, with all information identifying the authors removed to allow it to be refereed anonymously. When submitting, please choose ‘special issue article’ as the manuscript type, and ‘Participatory Research’ as the special issue name.

Complete instructions for authors can be found at the publisher’s website:

The deadline for submission of full papers is June 30, 2021. For inquiries, please contact Melis Cin ( ) or Carmen Martinez-Vargas ( The Special Issue will be published in February 2022.

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