Call for papers for Joint Sessions 2023

You are invited to submit your paper proposals for the Joint Sessions in Toulouse 25-28 April, 2023. The deadline is 9th January 2023.

The workshop “Democratic Assemblage: Innovating Democracy in a Connected World”, endorsed by the SG on Democratic Innovations, is chaired by Sonia Bussu (University of Birmingham) and Hans Asenbaum (University of Canberra).

Please find the workshop description below and here.


Democratic Assemblage: Innovating Democracy in a Connected World


In the past two decades, the scholarly community interested in participatory and deliberative democracy has focused its attention on democratic innovations. These institutionalized designs, such as participatory budgets and citizens’ assemblies, have been conceptualized as insular events that realize democratic ideals in a micro setting in relative isolation from each other and wider society. Only recently has the attention of democratic scholarship turned toward the connectivity between various democratic innovations and raised questions about their impact on society (Dean, Boswell, & Smith, 2019; Parry, Asenbaum, & Ercan, 2021). The systems turn in democratic theory can help tackle this problem (Mansbridge et al., 2012). By exploring the transmission between public space, where democratic innovations are located, and empowered space, where governments reside, deliberative systems trace connectivity (Dryzek, 2009). However, deliberative systems and democratic innovations themselves are conceptualized in static terms. Systems imply clear and potentially hierarchical structures and democratic innovations focus on top-down design that pre-structures human interaction. The richness of practices of participatory governance is difficult to understand entirely through a systemic lens, which entails linearity.

This Workshop will explore assemblage theory as an analytical and evaluative frame of participatory and deliberative processes.

Assemblage theory can help us capture and understand the messiness of participatory practices and focus on emergence, contingency and change. Inspired by Bruno Latour, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari, the term assemblage refers to self-subsisting and co-functioning entities that are subject to contingency and change. Through an assemblage lens, participatory processes can be understood as interconnected human and non-human configurations of people, organisations, technologies, spaces, regulations, resources, temporally attached to each other in ways that change their singular properties to engender empowering capacities (DeLanda, 2016). In this sense, assemblages are dynamic processes.

While democratic design focuses on how human interaction can be structured and pre-determined, assemblage thinking opens our minds to the spontaneity, serendipity and unpredictability. This is a pragmatic approach that places the emphasis on how a process is adapted to local contexts, recognising the multiple components and context-specific factors that need to be strategically arranged to make it workable. It draws our attention to possibilities of co-creating democratic design from the bottom up and exploring the organic connectivity between society and democratic arenas. Rather than being expert-led, democratic innovations can evolve as organic spaces through social movement engagement and civic initiatives. Through this lens, humans do not lose their agency. Instead, they are one element within agentic assemblages. They can and should strive to influence assemblage to enhance its democratic quality.

Approaching participatory democracy through an assemblage frame is thus about creating space for and nurturing processes that can generate new identities and new spaces of action (Bussu et al., forthcoming). The process of assembling acknowledges that participatory spaces are in constant flux, and we cannot determine their future shape (ibid.). Human agency on its own can never attain mastery over assemblage. The concept of assemblage, then, induces sensitivity, humility and respect for nonhuman forces and agents.

Participant profile:

The interdisciplinary nature of assemblage theory will enrich established debates in democratic theory. This Workshop aims to facilitate intergenerational dialogue between established and emerging scholars.

Workshop Directors are keen to create an inclusive space for scholars of all ages, genders, ethnic backgrounds, and bodily abilities, and from all geographical regions. Workshop Directors welcome both theoretical conceptualizations and empirical analysis of the democratic significance of assemblages. While we expect most Papers to be situated in political science, we welcome disciplinary diversity, including fields such as urban studies, political geography, international relations, sociology, and cultural studies as well as inter- and transdisciplinary projects.

The Workshop will lead to a special issue or edited volume setting out an assemblage turn in democracy research and practice. Paper topics will include:

  • Empirical analysis of democratic participation using an assemblage framework
  • Democratic theory and assemblage theory
  • Non-human participation: animals, natural events, technology, viruses, etc.
  • Bottom-up co-creation of democratic innovations
  • Design thinking and assemblage theory
  • New materialism, feminist materialism, agentic realism
  • Social movement organizing from an assemblage perspective
  • Identity, gender, race, sexuality through an assemblage lens

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