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From “participation” to (assumed) “representation”: Residents in local governance in Seine-Saint-Denis (France), Delhi (India) and Wenling (China)

Abstract : This paper examines the participation of local residents in local governance using the data from four different surveys ; one ethnography of citizen councils in Seine-Saint-Denis, France (Bondy and Noisy le Sec), a study of Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and their role in the governance of the city of Delhi (India), and two surveys on participatory budgeting and deliberative assemblies in the Chinese cities of Chengdu (Sichuan) and Wenling (Zhejiang). Though very different in their socio-economic, political and historical contexts, the Indian, Chinese and French cases illustrate a common concern for the participation of “residents” in local governance, albeit with different interpretations. The objective of this paper is thus to show how a global injunction about local governance and the need for public participation is understood and implemented in three different countries and to discuss (and compare) the effect of these choices in the ways residents are framed as participants, representatives or represented in local governance processes. We will show how most of the time, in the three countries under scrutiny, participation turns out to be “assumed representation” (Houtzager and Gurza Lavalleand, 2009) and is used mostly to legitimize (or delegitimize) public action. To do so, we will analyze the figure of the “local resident”, looking at how this figure is constructed, both in public discourses and through policies (the making of participatory schemes, the creation of an association, etc.). We will particularly look at the different devices that have been proposed in the three countries to mobilize local residents (Citizen councils and neighborhood councils in France, Resident Welfare Associations, Bhagidari scheme and Mohalla Sabha in India, kentanhui and yishihui in China). We will show how these devices participate in the constitution of competing representative claims (Saward, 2016) around local “residents” both as a constituency (object of representation) and as representatives (subjects of representation).
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Submitted on : Monday, May 18, 2020 - 10:45:19 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 3:03:46 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-02611133, version 1


Virginie Dutoya, Emilie Frenkiel. From “participation” to (assumed) “representation”: Residents in local governance in Seine-Saint-Denis (France), Delhi (India) and Wenling (China). ECPR General Conference, Panel : Reclaiming representation in global perspective, ECPR, Aug 2018, Hambourg, Germany. ⟨halshs-02611133⟩