Accepted Paper:

Ghost and ghostbusters: Phantom hunting in times of participatory democracy  


Guillem Palà (Autonomous University of Barcelona)
Gonzalo Correa (Universidad de la República)

Paper long abstract:

As extension of the parliament, the participatory devices try to achieve the democratic utopia, that is, the full participation of the political body. In that sense, paradoxically, they are both the affirmation and the negation of the parliamentarian logic on the grounds of representation. How that paradox is settled? Who becomes a legitimate political actor? Through a qualitative study on why people do not participate in such instances, carried out in Catalonia, we present an analysis of the construction of categories of non-participants ("ghosts") by responsible technicians of participation ("ghostbusters"). At the same time, we explore in a symmetrical way how non-participants make sense of their absence from the devices of participation ("containment units") and contextualize the recruitment strategies ("traps"). In the first place, we conclude that for the success of the mechanism it is necessary to invoke "ghosts", which means, paradoxically, that the non-participants must be present despite their absence in order to legitimize the process and shape the identity of those who participate. Secondly, the strategies of inclusion/exclusion deployed by the "ghostbusters" allow for the dispositive to work administrating the problematic tension of politic representation -if everyone took part in it, it would not be a political work. This way, the participatory devices are constituted in apparatuses of capture of (present) participants as well as of (absent) non-participants, that dispute not only what is the public and the issue, but also what is democracy.

Panel C4
Non-concerns about science and technology and within STS