Making Community Happen

Special Report: Ethnographies of Participation
Effervescence, Emphasis, and Repetition in Los Angeles’s Civic Life
By Mathieu Berger

Contrasted with participative assemblies in Belgium or France, where speaking as a competent citizen requires demonstrating a sense of restraint, the Californian assemblies discover, at the micro-local level as well as the metropolitan level, a civic competence with an integral sense of emphasis. The speaker has to open his heart in public, exaggerate both the familiarity and the formalism of his speech, and emphasize the unique features of his person while making a strong collective affiliation. As integral parts of the “community framework? of civic life in Los Angeles, these forms of expression are assessed in the ambivalence of their implications, between apolitical drifts and emancipatory potential.


  • urban democracy
  • USA
  • community
  • civic culture
  • emotions
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