The Uses of Reflexivity in the Participatory Enterprise. An Identity Issue with Practical, Theoretical and Market-Oriented Implications

Participatory Researchers and Actors: Dangerous Liaisons or Productive Collaborations?
By Judith Ferrando y Puig, Guillaume Petit

This paper, based on our experiences of reflective practitioners, discusses both the uses and the purposes of reflexivity in the field of participatory democracy. Various kinds of uses can be categorized depending on actors and contexts. They constitute a resource—framed, conditioned and restricted—both for skilled and research workers. Uses of reflexivity constitute identity issues for some practitioners of participatory democracy with practical, theoretical and market-oriented implications. The focus is on practitioner-researchers who are service providers for contracting authorities that promote participatory devices. By concentrating on these actors, who have intermediary positions as spreading agents or influential outsiders, we adopt a mirror that is, despite being magnifying and distorting, a valuable indicator of the links between practice, business and research in the field of participatory democracy. From our experiences and observations as practitioners, it seems that these patterns of reflexivity engender shapes of claims of scientific legitimacy, of adaptability and of exteriority, which are used by actors for showing and demonstrating their ability. However, these postures are partly contradictory with the business requirements and questions remain regarding the nature of this bounded reflexivity. Its uses can be classified under one of the two poles of a continuum: a narcissistic reflexivity that is its own justification; and an analytical reflexivity, critical or normative, whose aim is to deal with the root issues of participatory democracy.


  • participatory democracy
  • market of participatory democracy
  • reflexivity
  • practitioners
  • researchers
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