Papers for the Doctoral days. Summaries/1


First Session --- 9:30-11:30

3 parallel workshops


Workshop 1-1: Building environmental issues by public participation

Discussants: Denis Salles (Cemagref, Bordeaux) and Sezin Topçu (Institut Marcel Mauss-CNRS, EHESS Paris)


Based on two ethnographic research carried out in Chile, we analyze the way in which two environmentally engaged associations create their own participation forms in a local scale. On the one hand, the "Swan action" association ("Acción por los cisnes"), located in the southern city of Valdivia, tries to protect a polluted "humid zone". On the other, the "Citizen network for the defence of the Precordillera" association in Santiago aims the protection of an "autochthonous forest" in the Andes Mountains. Beyond the existing decision instances in which they try to participate, the members of these associations design new ways of denunciation and claiming justice. We will focus on the way members argue for their rights (concerning the environment and citizen's participation), making their claims public and continuing collective action even with little means and reduced members. They vigilantly observe authorities' as well as enterprises' actions, accusing or identifying publicly the "responsible" for any possible or real risk, thus reassuring the public importance of the causes. We affirm that this way of "defending the environment" allows a new local and particular form of citizen critic to emerge against decisional processes that most of the time only includes authorities and enterprises, excluding citizens.


This communication presents the socio-cultural, political and institutional effects of the participation, by irruption and invitation, in eight conflicts case studies developed in Spain between the years 2000 and 2007 (specifically in Catalonia and the Basque Country). To be more precise, we analyze the changes taken place in the elements of the crisis of the democracy after the application of participative processes and dynamics entered in the context of environmental conflicts. We analyze: the changes in the relations and attitudes between citizens, the creation of new groups and associations, the change to a new way of managing common interests, the attitude towards political actors and political parties, the effect on the denaturation of the institutional political monopoly and the effect on the power legitimization after the implementation of participative processes and mechanisms.

Clément POUTOT

CERReV, Université de Caen
Social treatment of clutter: co-construction based upon Legislative Theatre

Legislative Theatre is a participatory democracy tool. It was invented in the 1990's, when Augusto Boal was elected to the Vereadores chamber in Rio de Janero. Rather than merely representing the people, Boal led citizens to represent on stage their will for change. As a representative, he conveyed this desire's representation so it would be turned into a bill. Since then, such experiments have taken place in England, Portugal and France. Unfortunately, these experiments did not benefit from an evaluation allowing to make this practice durable. Within an ongoing research on social treatment of clutter related to alternative lifestyles, an analogous plan is to be implemented in 2012. This plan follows a sociological investigation upon the itinerary leading the physical object to the status of waste within ordinary and in transition households. The results of this research investigation will be used to build legislative theatre scenes involving different representatives of civil society (elected representatives, technicians and citizens). The methodology of this plan is what we aim to present here.

Maïmouna TRAORE

In Ouagadougou, the political capital of Burkina Faso, the advent of democracy in the 1990's was marked by a willingness to involve the various stakeholders of urban life, including citizens in the management of the city. This desire was strengthened by the reorganization of the waste management sector through the application of a Master Plan for Waste Management and the adoption of the polluter-pays principle.
In spite of such initiatives, some places of the city of Ouagadougou are still the scene of uncontrolled dump. To understand why the waste still present in places where "they should not be", we got interested in how citizens participate in the management of urban space.
Based on the literature review and the analysis of data collected, we found that difficulties linked to waste management are based on conceptual differences on citizenship. In other words, in Ouagadougou, the waste management is a problem because of the fact that the logics of decision makers/developers contractors do not coincide with the logics of a portion of the population.


Workshop 2-1: The public participation as an alternative political project

Discussants: Éric Pautard (LIED, ISH-CNRS Lyon) and Julien Talpin (CERAPS, CNRS-Lille 2)

Daroussi AHAMADI

On the basis of the postulate that every society has his own way of living, "his own citizenship" and that this concept is a geographic-historical matter, i.e., it's a question of spaces and time, we recognize that at one time Moharais' civilian society, with its specifics and traditional features, put into practice several form "of participation», by creating important factors for the peaceful maintaining of social cohesion. These several forms of participating find their bases on different polarities, particularly Muslim religion, African and then Madagascan traditions and others. These references enable to women and men communities to act together in the interest of a large number of the population.
The changes known so far by Mayotte for about forty years in all aspects of life disrupt and overturn in former times' mentalities. They naturally accompany with transformations that touches the "traditional participating" forms of the population quoted above. Thus, we attend to a switch from civilian society acting for his own life to one that is observant and spectator of its destiny, transformed into the hands of a high technologically and economically developed nation.
In front of this dichotomy between tradition and modernity, relying on scientific research in human and social sciences, particularly in human geography, we wish to take up a big challenge which is to explore innovating ideas to propose new solutions in order to vivify "participating" like in the good old days in society's current reality context.


After twelve years of a peculiar transformative experience, the Bolivarian Revolution born from the apparition of Hugo Chavez on the Venezuelan political arena translates in the practical field the ideal of the participatory democracy defined in the social theory of the 70's. My discussion sheds light on various elements: what are the effects of the "revolutionary situation" on my own ethnographic field fulfilled during many years in different popular suburban communities in Caracas? To what extent do the existing inquiries reflect opposing assessments, which do not pay sufficient attention to the impact of political context in the academic production? Lastly, how can we tackle Venezuelan situation in terms of participatory democracy theory? From my own ethnographic inquiry, I examine the ways in which participatory democracy fades away in the analytical literature favouring instead short-sighted perspectives sometimes very politicized, in quantitative or micro-sociological terms. Finally, my research experience allows me to draw conclusions on the difficult task for the political sociologist as he/she faces an alternative political model.

Lays Helena PAES E SILVA and Lidiane Eluizete DE CARVALHO

Centro de Estudos Sociais, Universidade de Coimbra
Environmental Law or Justice? The case of Brazil

The complex and trans-disciplinary nature of the environment enables the environmental movements and struggles to be structured according to the civil society concerns. The fight is therefore based on an environmental citizenship and is structured through the counter-hegemonic use of the rule of law and the participatory democracy's practice.  In this context, the democratic practices that characterize the propositions of the environment law are coherent with the propositions defended in the name of the different struggles for social emancipation. The emergence and the development of the movement for environmental justice is a paradigmatic example of this manifestation of structuring. In the Brazilian context, it enables analyzing the link between society and environment as well as the role played by the law and the participatory democracy inside these relations.  This article offers to describe the development of the movement for environmental justice in Brazil and its link to the counter-hegemonic use of the law to identify the possibilities that can favour the emergence of a democratic state of environmental law.


The purpose of this speech is to define a new political actor/audience who has appeared thanks to two major changes in the political structure of current Venezuela. The first one was Chavez election that established a new dialectic between the People and the Power: we call it the « populist-revolutionary » change; The second one came from all the devices of re-localisation of public sectors such as urban planning, water distribution system, social and cultural policies: we call it the « participatory » change. All these devices (the Consejos comunales de planificación publica) are part of « direct, popular and participatory democracy » and have to build, by theirs participatory popular practices, « the 21st century socialism ». But this new actor/audience (the pueblo pobre de los barrios y de las comunidades) based on participatory practice and his own way of politicization let appear some theoretical limits in the definition of « western » democracy, even if after the « deliberative turnover »: democracy has to be defined beyond the borders of devices, institutions, governmental technologies, in relationship with his own distinction between the "qualified people" and the "not-qualified people" to speak and to act politically.


Workshop 3-1: Housing and public participation

Discussants: Paula Cossart (CeRIES, Université Lille III) and Rémi Lefebvre (CERAPS, Université Lille II)


Inhabitants' participation in the field of social housing in France can be observed in two specific processes: the social mission social housing organizations are entrusted with by the State and the transformation of the governance that tends to include tenants in decision-making. In my research I look at the logics governing these two kinds of participation and the effects they have on the landlord and tenants. In 1999, about the logics of participation in the implementation of the "politique de la ville", Maurice Blanc brought out a distinction between ethical and pragmatic logics. This distinction can be reanalyzed in the context of social housing organizations. The notion of participation makes sense in a managerial speech: in a culture of results, it is necessary to give a sense of responsibility to tenants on daily managerial issues. In front of the tenants, the participation is justified by an ethical discourse:  adopting an appropriate behaviour, tenants will be able to improve their living conditions.  Here, I will try to show that ethical, social and managerial logics are interlinked in the organizations discourse and practice related to participation.

Camille DEVAUX

For five years, groups of inhabitants who share the wish to live « differently » have appeared in France. They aim to design and manage a residential block, within they would have their own flat and share spaces (common room, laundry room, workshop…). Some authors call it "cohousing" (in French "habitat participatif"), to highlight the fact that people are not only customers but really involved in houses' conception.
These experimentations have several impacts on the institutional agents of housing production, that is to say local authorities, elective representatives and social landlords. Two years ago, inhabitants' groups considered that these agents couldn't really be real partners. But today, there are more and more projects in collaboration with them.
There are two types of impacts, from the point of view of the "object" and from the point of view of the "process".
For the object, the first impact is linked with interpellation. Institutional agents are considering that cohousing call into question their representation of what housing is. The second effect is linked directly with their practices. Cohousing changes necessarily their practices.
For the process, there are first impacts of the decision and especially agenda-setting. Then, there are impacts on the actors' system composition.

Annalisa IORIO

During the last years, France and Italy have witnessed an increase in citizen initiatives aiming to promote non-conventional forms of housing.
Why can we talk about "participatory housing" when speaking of these experiences and what do they consist in? Do they take on the same meanings in both contexts? What objectives do they pursue, and what kind of actors are involved?
The current anthropological research project aims to answer these questions as well as to tackle the logics, dynamics and practices structuring such projects. Three sections shall form this communication. The first will be a methodological statement concerning the pertinence and specificity of an anthropological and comparative approach to such experimental participatory processes. The second part will instead deal with the meaning attributed to the experience of participation, as well as with the ways in which this participation is structured within these housing projects. Finally, the last section shall frame these different initiatives within their national contexts.

Sébastien JOLIS

This paper aims at studying tenants participation in the public housing sector from 1947 to 1963. In 1947, a bill makes the election of two tenants in every public housing Offices board compulsory, offering a new opportunity for participation. In this period, the citizens' participation is not yet a common form of public action, as it will become in the 1970s. Nevertheless, a study of the tenants' reactions to this law, based on the archives of the first tenants' representative association, allows for a better understanding of their hopes and expectations, as well as the contradictions of an activist milieu which is not entirely ready yet to take the step towards the concertation era. Even though this period doesn't revolutionise the way power and citizenship are exercised in the public housing sector, it nevertheless remains a founding experience of participation.