Ethnographies of Participation

Special Report: Ethnographies of Participation
By Daniel Cefaï, Marion Carrel, Julien Talpin, Nina Eliasoph, Paul Lichterman

In the context of a renewal of political ethnography, reviewing a range of ethnographic field approaches to participation helps us identify some main trends in this growing area of research. The subjects of this issue are not only methodological, however. Ethnographies of participation question the boundaries of their objects of study. They invite us to investigate citizen science, online communication, informal, everyday talk, or organized, collective action. Along with studies on participatory devices, ethnographies also describe the formats of participation in deliberative assemblies as well as organizational styles of civic engagement. They catch the rise of non-planned participation and follow-up processes and networks spread out over space and time. They also help us document how people build political capacities, as well as what people mean by refusing to participate. This issue gathers six articles challenging an ethnography of participation in six different countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, Argentina, and France.


  • ethnography of politics
  • participatory assemblies
  • publics
  • gathering
  • comparative ethnography
  • political participation
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