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Transforming Participatory Science into Socioecological Praxis

Valuing Marginalized Environmental Knowledges in the Face of the Neoliberalization of Nature and Science

Brian J. Burke and Nik Heynen

Citizen science and sustainability science promise the more just and democratic production of environmental knowledge and politics. In this review, we evaluate these participatory traditions within the context of (a) our theorization of how the valuation and devaluation of nature, knowledge, and people help to produce socio-ecological hierarchies, the uneven distribution of harms and benefits, and inequitable engagement within environmental politics, and (b) our analysis of how neoliberalism is reworking science and environmental governance. We find that citizen and sustainability science often fall short of their transformative potential because they do not directly confront the production of environmental injustice and political exclusion, including the knowledge hierarchies that shape how the environment is understood and acted upon, by whom, and for what ends. To deepen participatory practice, we propose a heterodox ethicopolitical praxis based in Gramscian, feminist, and postcolonial theory and describe how we have pursued transformative praxis in southern Appalachia through the Coweeta Listening Project.

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Thomas W. Pogge

Winston Churchill is quoted as saying that “democracy is the worst possible form of government except – all the others that have been tried”. This thought may stimulate efforts to overcome the defects of democracy through the exploration of as yet untried alternatives superior to democracy. In our time, however, an effort to overcome these defects through the exploration of as yet untried superior forms of democracy seems far more promising. Despite their multi-dimensional diversity, existing democratic regimes are scattered over a minuscule sector of the space of possible democratic structures. It cannot be said that experience and reflection have produced convergence upon this sector. Most of the other possibilities have never been tried or discussed. Indeed, many could not have been tried or discussed because they are becoming feasible only now, in the dawning information age. It is not, then, good reasons that keep practice and reflection within the narrow sector, but habit and entrenchment. We are deeply accustomed to the conventional forms of democracy. And politicians successful under prevailing rules tend to be hostile to any significant reforms. But this should not stop the rest of us from at least thinking about alternatives.

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The Ritual Experience of Continuity

Flow and Participation in Punu Twin Dancing

Carine Plancke

While focusing on its dynamics, Bruce Kapferer considers ritual as a means for readjusting the flow of life, thus undermining Claude Lévi-Strauss's vision of ritual as a vain search for continuity. This article shows the potential of Kapferer's approach for understanding the dance rituals that the Punu of Congo-Brazzaville dedicate to twins, who, as waterspirits, embody the source of life. Advancing Victor Turner's attempt to account for the generative power of ritual, it discloses the means through which these rituals afford a lived experience of revitalizing continuity whereby the part embraces the whole and a focused, self-intensifying energetic dynamic unfolds and continuously readjusts its own flow. The analysis of rhythm and its actualization in song and dance turns out to be essential in this regard.

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Critiquing governmentality

The social construction of participation and accountability in the Atlantic zone of Costa Rica

Pieter de Vries

This article sets out to test the Foucauldian concept of governmentality as it has been applied by social theorists working on the topic of neoliberal managerialism. It starts with a critical discussion of the 'good governance' agenda as developed by the World Bank. The question that the article poses is whether such technologies of governance are as successful in shaping new fields of intervention as assumed in the (managerial) governmentality literature. This question is answered negatively by way of a case study of an extensionist, working in an integrated rural development project in the Atlantic zone of Costa Rica, who developed his own 'participatory extension style of operation' for dealing with farmer beneficiaries. At a more theoretical level, the article takes issue with current notions regarding the malleability of the Self and the 'social'. The article concludes that the governmentality approach has perverse consequences for the anthropological project as it leads to an impoverished kind of ethnography.

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Alessandro Chiaramonte

The Italian general elections held in February 2013 ended up in stalemate. The center-left coalition won the absolute majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies but not in the Senate, making it impossible to form any homogeneous governing majority. In the end, the only available opstion to support the new cabinet was a “grand coalition” of parties from different political sides. This chapter analyzes this destabilizing outcome, taking into account a number of factors: the success of a new anti-establishment party, the Five Star Movement, which has become the largest party in the country; the significant loss of votes by the center-left and especially by the center-right, compared to the previous elections of 2008; the peculiar nature and functioning of the electoral system; the extraordinary level of vote shifts; the “new” electoral geography; the crisis of the bipolar setting; and the transformation of the party system.

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Practitioner’s Note

MASS LBP and Long-Form Deliberation in Canada

Spencer McKay and Peter MacLeod

Deliberative forums, such as citizens’ assemblies or reference panels, are one institutionalization of deliberative democracy that has become increasingly commonplace in recent years. MASS LBP is a pioneer in designing and facilitating such long-form deliberative processes in Canada. This article provides an overview of the company’s civic lottery and reference panel process, notes several distinctive features of MASS LBP that are relevant to addressing challenges to democratic deliberation, and outlines possible areas for future research in deliberative democracy applied in both private and public settings.

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The Weatherman

The Making of Prepared Farmers and the Postcolonial Predictive State in Kenya

Martin Skrydstrup

This article explores weather forecasting as an emergent technology of governmentality through a detailed ethnography of the ways in which the relationships between weather and crops are rendered knowable in a two-day “participatory scenario planning” (PSP) workshop in Naromoru in the Central Highlands of Kenya. Farmers were “made into meteorologists” and developed their preparedness for hazards, impacts, opportunities, strategies, and responsibilities within the context of facing El Niño. The ethnography targets seemingly novel ways of preparing farmers for El Niño. I argue that the PSP served two principal functions: (1) to redistribute responsibilities of the farmers themselves by making them into “meteorologists”; and (2) to integrate “scientific expertise” with “local knowledge” to generate public trust in the metrological institutions of the postcolonial predictive state.

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Dugald Monro

This article argues that democracy requires citizens to have confidence that their interests and concerns will be seriously considered by their elected representatives. Drawing on a case study of one municipality, the ability of citizens in small communities to have local issues considered by Council was examined. The nature of the municipality, the Council structure, and the ethos that required Councilors to take a “corporate” view of representation—representing the municipality as a whole rather than any particular community—were all factors limiting citizens' confidence that their concerns would be taken seriously by Council. This shortcoming in democracy at the local level is only partially offset by the municipality's Community Consultative Bodies. These aim to allow local communities to bring their issues before Council, however they operate unevenly and in parts of this municipality and in many other municipalities do not exist at all.

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Selina Stead, Tim Daw, and Tim Gray

This article reviews methods used in the increasing use of fishers' knowledge in contemporary fisheries management. During the last one hundred years, fisheries science has been used extensively to inform management decisions for the regulation of sea fisheries. However, the decline of many fish stocks has cast doubt on the sufficiency of fisheries science, and has led to demands from fishers that their own expertise—fishers' knowledge—should be taken into account in decision-making. In this article, we examine four case studies of such attempts to take account of fishers' knowledge in the management of North Sea fisheries, comparing their different methods of identifying and using fishers' expertise, and assessing their respective outcomes. Our conclusion is that the value of fishers' knowledge improves according to the extent to which the method of obtaining it is participative and interactive.

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The Rule of Difference

How Emergency Powers Prevent Palestinian Assimilation in Israel

Yoav Mehozay

This article argues that Israel's non-assimilationist policy toward Palestinians-what I term Israel's 'rule of difference'-is embedded in the state's security conception. Under the guise of protecting the state and its people, Israel has successfully achieved two essential prongs of this political objective. Dating from the 1948 War, the state has created a series of legal mechanisms that have enabled it to expropriate Palestinian land. Similarly, it has refused to allow Palestinian political associations that espouse nationalist views or challenge the Jewish character of the state to organize or run candidates, even if their programs are clearly non-violent. Ultimately, the state has effectively blocked Palestinians' ability to participate in shaping policy. Ensuring security has thus aided the state in preventing the assimilation of this group into society.