Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Despite the growing enthusiasm for citizen involvement and participation in spaces of public governance, it is never just any participation, by just any means that is valorized. New technologies, digital and otherwise, have emerged to elicit, distill and direct public participation towards the resolution of particular problems or the improvement of certain services. This is particularly salient in the field of social innovation, increasingly promoted in the public sector. This paper explores the creative strategies deployed by a social innovation consultancy in a 2016 participatory workshop in Strasbourg, France, where a group of carefully selected participants were charged with naming their new (administratively imposed) territorial region (Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine) as part of broader regional reforms. The regional president declared that such a participatory approach would not only constitute an innovative experiment in participatory democracy, but that it would also foster a sense of collective belonging. Yet for many in the region of Alsace, where the new regional reform was met with large protests and compared in the media to a forced marriage of unwilling participants, a participatory campaign to name the new region was seen as a denial of the will of regional inhabitants. This paper explores the cultivation and recognition of participation, either as authorized in certain spaces and towards certain ends, or as unruly, falling outside the realm of productive engagement.