Details on article

Id 213
Author Bianchini, F., ; Tommarchi, E., ; Hansen, L., E.
Title Problematising the question of participation in Capitals of Culture

Tommarchi, E., Hansen, L. E., & Bianchini, F. (2018). Problematising the question of participation in Capitals of Culture. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 15(2), 154-169.

Keywords Capitals of Culture; Participation; Legacy; Culture
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Abstract Participation is increasingly a common feature in both Capital and City of Culture (CoC) programmes such as European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) and UK Cities of Culture (UKCoC). Since the mid-1990s and in particular in the last decade, many ECoCs have been displaying an emphasis on audience development and cultural engagement, impacting both on the balance of their cultural programming and on the design of specific projects and events with the aim of engaging local communities. This development that seems to be putting participation at the centre of both ECoCs and UKCoCs, at least at rhetorical level, is the motivation behind this Themed Section of Participations. Why has it become increasingly important and how is participation understood and practiced in the different local versions of CoCs? And how can participation in CoCs be understood in the context of both a broad societal participatory turn and a narrower participatory turn in cultural policy and in the practices of cultural institutions? This Themed Section does not give a simple and conclusive answer to these questions, but it offers partial, case-based examples and can be seen as the first step towards a better understanding of why, how and to what extent CoCs are participatory. In this editorial introduction, we map the landscape in which the specific cases presented in the articles are positioned. We look at the emergence and development of the agenda of participation in mainly the ECoC scheme and we identify some of the challenges that future research needs to address.

Metodology Literature review; document analysis; case studies

Findings The article raises some key questions for future study. Three issues appear of particular relevance. First, there is a lack of comparative studies. Participation is mostly approached through the study of a single case, which is seldom connected to broader theories or to other cases. Comparative efforts would put different experiences in conversation, allowing more critical interpretations to emerge and encouraging theory building. For example, a relevant theme for a comparative study of participation in ECoC programmes is volunteering. Many ECoCs praise their volunteer programmes as positive examples of participatory cultural policies. Participation through volunteering appears nonetheless a ‘restricted’ or ‘privileged’ form of participation. A comparative analysis that explores whether volunteers in different localities are able to encourage wider participation would make a key contribution to the field. Secondly, the literature on ECoCs and participation shows a weak theoretical basis, in line with criticisms of the wider literature on cultural events and urban cultural policies (e.g. Markusen and Gadwa, 2010). A more reflective approach towards participation in ECoCs could counter the tendency towards the adoption of an all-encompassing concept of participation. A more differentiated analysis of different forms of participation appears to be key to examining different policy approaches and outcomes. Finally, the link between discussions of participation and of ECoC legacy strategies is lacking, despite the fact that both participation and legacy are key concepts in most ECoC programmes. Many ECoCs did elaborate legacy programmes related to participation. In this context, longitudinal studies on participation are particularly needed in order to assess whether the innovative experiences of participation undertaken by many ECoCs are able to continue after the events that triggered them. Exploring the relationships between participatory approaches and legacy would also contribute to the analysis of the longer-term impacts of these events, about which little is known at present.
Open Access YES
Search Database Researcher knowledge
Technique Document analysis; Literature review; Case studies
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