Participatory Spaces in Perspective

PSA specialist group Participatory and Deliberative Democracy international conference with partners: the Centre for Democracy and the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster and the Department of Political Economy, King's College London 


Contemporary politics is characterised by a variety of participatory spaces within and outside state institutions. These spaces have been classified in various ways such as invited, claimed or closed. The study of democratic innovations is rich in empirical findings on invited spaces organised by state agencies all around the world, like mini publics,participatory budgets, and online petitions. Research on new social movements, citizens’ initiatives, and unconventional forms of participation like flash mobs, online protest, and hacktivism examines the nature of these diverse claimed spaces. And the study of parliamentary debates and deliberation in governmental institutions provides insights into closed spaces.


The democratic scholarship of recent decades offers a great variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to capture the characteristics of these participatory spaces. Deliberative, agonistic, participatory, difference, and realist democrats apply competing conceptualisations of these phenomena. Recent developments in democratic theory raise the question whether such “model thinking” might be outdated and needs to be overcome. Are these different perspectives mutually exclusive or compatible? What are the implications of the world views that they imply? Do they offer useful perspectives or are they an obstacle for empirical research? Empirical work is characterised by the application of a diversity of methodological strategies that cut across quantitative and qualitative positivist and constructivist traditions, raising the question of the most profitable approaches to studying participatory spaces.


The conference of the Participatory and Deliberative Democracy Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association 2018 brings together international research on a broad variety of participatory spaces. It investigates theoretical, methodological, and empirical challenges and aims to push the boundaries of democratic scholarship.


Click here for a complete conference programme. More information may also be found on Participatory and Deliberative Democracy's website.

The conference is open to anyone interested in the topic. To register, email the convenors, Hans Asenbaum and  Rod Dacombe, at