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Accepted Paper:

Participation and empowerment for communities in crisis: rhetoric and reality  
Heike Doering (Cardiff University) Bella Dicks (Cardiff University)

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on a particular notion of 'community' as it is imagined and actualised as part of the UK social regeneration agenda. A policy of community participation and empowerment has emerged as remedy for problems of deindustrialisation. Despite different local understandings of crisis, the effects of a national agenda that aims to create active citizens to re-establish the 'normal order of things' are similar. Drawing on empirical data on two communities' experience of participative governance mechanisms the paper highlights the limits of such measures in both rhetoric and reality: as crises are constructed as current events the ideological blind spot covers the fact that individual social regeneration projects cannot address the underlying structural inequalities. At the same time, such a conceptualisation creates a theoretical blind spot which does not allow for positive empowerment in a situation of continuing domination. In both cases a lack of imagination on the part of policy and theory silences the 'community.'

Panel W050
Social imagination and urban crisis in postindustrial cities
  Session 1