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Knowledge infrastructures, conflictual coproduction, and the politics of planning: a post-foundational approach to political capability in Nepal and Thailand

The impact of urban planning on marginalised groups must be better understood. To address this knowledge gap, the authors focused on participatory planning and its political impact on marginalised groups in Nepal and Thailand.

Bobby Farnan, Jon Ensor / Published on 22 December 2023

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Farnan, R. A., Ensor, J., Shrestha, A., Poudel, D., Singh, B., Thinphanga, P., Hutanuwatr, K., Subedi, Y., Lama, S., Singh, S. & Friend. (2023). Knowledge infrastructures, conflictual coproduction, and the politics of planning: A post-foundational approach to political capability in Nepal and Thailand. Political Geography 108. DOI:

Informal settlements feature increasingly in twenty-first-century urban development. Participatory planning is frequently adopted as a way to manage this informality, however, itrisks reproducing the very exclusions and divisions it is attempting to deconstruct. Recognising how power dynamics unfold in these participatory processes is critical for better understanding the political life of marginalised groups, such as informal settlers: the conflicts experienced in participatory planning are indicative of a broader struggle for equality and political rights for marginalised groups.

A landscape view of the Manohara informal settlement - Kathmandu, Nepal. There is a waterway in the central foreground, with buildings in the distance either side of it. Himalayas in the background.

The Manohara informal settlement in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Photo: Bobby Farnan

The authors examined how informal settlers shape and are shaped by participatory planning processes through two case studies: the Kirtipur housing project in Kathmandu, Nepal, and the Baan Mankong housing project in Khon Kaen, Thailand. To do this, they asked two key questions:

  • What conditions underpin the political capability of informal settlers?
  • How does participatory planning empower marginalised groups to shape their own political subjectivity?

In answering these questions, the authors used theoretical lenses of political capability, post-foundational politics, and knowledge infrastructures.

The authors found that participatory planning can serve to mobilise marginalised groups and empower them, but marginalised groups gain more political capability through these participatory processes when the state and its institutions are distanced from them.

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Open access

SEI authors

Bobby Farnan

Research Associate

SEI York

Profile picture of Jon Ensor
Jon Ensor


SEI York

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