Transnational Circulations of Participatory Engineering

Special Report: A Global Participatory Turn?
By Alice Mazeaud, Magali Nonjon, Raphaëlle Parizet

Analyzing participatory engineering’s transnational dynamics of vertical circulation (from international to national or local spaces) and horizontal circulation (territories among themselves, and actors from same institutional and social spaces), this introduction tackles the existence of a “global participatory turn” from a cross reading of the papers in this issue. The proposed analysis is at the crossroads of sociological and anthropological works (circulation of democratic forms and actor-centered sociology), works from the sociology of science (circulation of innovations), and those from political science (transnationalization of public policy). Based on this theoretical corpus, the analysis firstly calls into question the coercive dimension of international organizations developed by approaches that adopt the “participation as the new tyranny” perspective. Secondly, away from overly deterministic perspectives that make the appropriation of participatory discourses and practices by local actors the automatic product of compliance with participatory rhetoric, this article sheds light on the plurality of investment in participation that is more or less interested and strategic. Finally, the systematic use of “best practices” or the labeling of experiences as “models” leads to the placement of emphasis on the role of professional networks and unveils the strategic uses of the international in the framework of a fierce competition between territories.

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