Accepted Paper:

Landscapes of democracy: cultures, systems, and the politics of movement  


Endre Dányi (Goethe University Frankfurt)
Michaela Spencer (Charles Darwin University)

Paper short abstract:

We examine two parliamentary settings: the plenary hall of the German Bundestag and a ceremony ground of the Yolŋu Nation’s Assembly in northern Australia. These settings bring to life particular landscapes of democracy, which point at differences beyond political cultures and legal systems.

Paper long abstract:

As monumental buildings throughout the world attest, parliaments are often treated as symbolic sites. Individually they commemorate specific polities and collectively they celebrate the triumph of liberal democracy over other political regimes. Not unlike laboratories in experimental science, parliaments can also be seen as complex socio-technical arrangements that allow some representations to emerge while making others unrealistic or impossible. Accordingly, differences in the workings of parliaments are usually expressed either in terms of political cultures (e.g. the Weimar tradition) or of legal systems (e.g. the Westminster model). While these expressions are not wrong, they assume that parliaments are coherent places that can be easily distinguished from their outsides. In this paper we draw on recent fieldwork in Germany and Australia to examine two parliamentary settings: the plenary chamber of the Bundestag and a ceremony ground of the Yolŋu Nation's Assembly in northern Australia. We inquire about these settings by focusing on the material and discursive practices through which they become sites for the performance of politics. In doing so, we notice that they involve different ways of interrelating the insides and outsides of parliamentary practice, and that these differences cannot be reduced to differences either in political cultures or in legal systems. Rather, we suggest that these parliaments each inhabit and bring to life particular landscapes of democracy. We claim that this shift of attention from places to landscapes allows us to reconceptualise politics as something that resides neither inside nor outside parliaments, but is produced in circulations between them.

Panel T036
Social Studies of Politics: Making Collectives By All Possible Means