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"The Fight for Voice": Exploring Conflict and Participation in Hamilton's Neighbourhood Action Strategy

Misra, Samhita (2018) "The Fight for Voice": Exploring Conflict and Participation in Hamilton's Neighbourhood Action Strategy. [MRP]

Item Type: MRP
Creators: Misra, Samhita

Despite the widespread popularity of participatory design, research, and planning processes, an analysis of power indicates that participation in these processes is not as inclusive as it is articulated to be. The conflation of participation with consensus models of decision-making have coerced diverse participants into agreeing – often, with the dominant voices in power.

Democratic theories of “agonistic pluralism” offer an alternative. Conceptualizing conflicts as a space of diverse viewpoints interacting, agonistic pluralism sees political life as dynamic, evolving, and always moving in and out of conflict. Combining this with an understanding that 1) participatory processes must disrupt power structures in order to advance social justice, and 2) unconscious psychological factors affect individual participation in groups, I conceptualize inclusive democratic participation as a process of internal transformation, therapy, and healing. This internal process then affects external change – leading to public discourse and outcomes benefitting communities experiencing marginalization.

Following this framework, I use arts-based interviews to understand how different residents, institutional partners, community developers, and researchers understand and practice participatory democracy in Hamilton’s Neighbourhood Action Strategy. These different understandings of participatory democracy interact and conflict to illustrate 1) how different forms of personal, positional, and systemic power serve to supress diverse perspectives, and 2) how important psychology and social justice are to inclusive democratic participation.

Ultimately, this paper claims that a heightened self-awareness of personal, positional, and systemic power can help researchers, designers, and practitioners manage their power in a way that encourages diverse perspectives rather than suppressing them. This is important because when we manage our power in order to facilitate more inclusive democratic participation, we make strides towards a truer democracy with pluralistic public discourse and engagement.

Date: April 2018
Uncontrolled Keywords: participatory process, democracy, agonistic pluralism, collaboration, politics, power, inclusive participation, participatory action research, neighbourhood planning
Divisions: Graduate Studies > Strategic Foresight and Innovation
Date Deposited: 11 May 2018 15:46
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 22:30
URI: https://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/2292

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