Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session
Citizen participation is everywhere. Invoking it has become de rigueur when discussing cities and regions in the developing world. From the World Bank to the World Social Forum, the virtues of participation are extolled: from its capacity to "deepen democracy" to its ability to improve governance, there is no shortage to the benefits it can bring. While it is clear that participation cannot possibly "do" all that is claimed, it is also clear that citizen participation cannot be dismissed, and that there must be something to it. Figuring out what that something is — whether it is identifying the types of participation or the contexts in which it happens that bring about desirable outcomes — is the goal of the class.
In order to gain some purchase on that, however, it is also necessary to spend some time clarifying concepts and investigating theoretical debates on participation. Despite a proliferation of best practices and successful case studies in the literature, there is general theoretical confusion on what constitutes participation, community, or governance, let alone what the desirable goals are. And in order to do that, we will also spend some time situating the current discussion on participation in its context, because it also clear that invoking participation takes place at a particular moment in development discourse as well as a particular moment of transition in the nature of the global economy and of the institutions of global governance.
This is a reading-intensive course and you should plan on spending several hours a week in reading for this course, and you should realistically assess the workload of this course before deciding to take it. You are expected to come to class having done the all reading and ready to actively participate in discussion. It is not assumed that students have background in philosophy of science or qualitative methods, but it is assumed that you have a basic working background in social theory.
The most important requirement of this course is that you read the materials each week closely, carefully, and thoughtfully, and that you attend class as an active participant. Some of the weeks have more reading than others - the reading load generally varies inversely with its difficulty. In addition to general attendance/participation you will be expected to write weekly memos, prepare presentation(s) to the class, and two small writing projects. My assumptions in making these papers smaller and of lesser importance in the overall grade scheme is that you will devote your energies to careful reading (and thinking).