Extractive Knowledge:

Epistemic and Practical Challenges for Higher Education Community Engagement


  • Nancy McHugh Fitz Center for Leadership in Community, University of Dayton
  • Samantha Kennedy
  • Ashley Wright




epistemic justice, community engagement, Transformative Learning


Extractive knowledge is prevalent in higher education community engagement and is a type of epistemic injustice that is harmful to the marginalized communities and community nonprofits that many universities, particularly predominately white institutions, seek to engage. Extractive knowledge results from what we can think of as transactional relationships with community members or community nonprofits. These are largely superficial but impactful, relationships that perpetuate injustice in higher education spaces that imagine themselves to be working to create greater justice. This paper has two aims: 1. To develop the concept of extractive knowledge in community engagement, showing the ways that it is a type of epistemic injustice. 2. To share strategies and examples for more epistemically just approaches to community engagement that shape knowledge in ways that are epistemically responsible, in partnership with communities, and in alignment with community goals and outcomes.  We provide the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community Practice Principles as an approach that can move higher education institutions toward transformative community engagement.  The paper finishes with the Fitz Center’s Health Equity Program and another partnership as examples of the use of these Practice Principles to leading toward reciprocal, responsible, community-driven, transformational community engagement.


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