Author:Delphine Gardey (University of Geneva)
Paper short abstract:
What differences to previous narratives if we perform a « thick description » of one major western contemporary political institution? Based on unknown archives, I will give an account of the embodied dimensions - material, social, legal - by which the French Assembly took its form and did persist.
Paper long abstract:
Did we substantially consider that politics could have artifacts? What differences if we could plee for, and perform, a « thick description » of one major western contemporary political institution? What is materially required for bringing to life a free, deliberative, representative and sovereign assembly? In the French case a century is necessary for the successful establishment of parliamentarianism, for translating the revolutionary gesture of 1789 - the ideals and principles of representative government and popular sovereignty - into a series of routinized procedures and activities, into a long-lasting and sustainable institution.
Far removed from the disembodied visions of certain philosophical traditions, I will give an account of the embodied dimensions - material, social, legal, technical - by which the French National Assembly took its form and did persist. Based on unknown archives, I will analyse how the material and legal dimensions of the « parliamentary community », and its territory, were defined, delineated, actively constructed. In focusing on the Assembly's machinery, I am suggesting that materiality matters and plays an active role in defining western democratic institutions. It reminds us of the culturality of « our » moral and political edifices. In focusing on the objectives of the French Republican regimes to produce an unmarked and disembodied legislative « body », and on the invention of the « modesty » of the « gentleman deputy », I question the gender arrangements coalesced in the very definition of what counts as « modernity » in western political history.
Social Studies of Politics: Making Collectives By All Possible Means