Putting participation on stage: examining participatory theatre as an alternative site for political participation

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Abstract

Participation, it has been said, is a central lynchpin of citizenship and democracy. Unfortunately, studies have shown for some time that political participation is on the decline in most Western democracies. Particularly for scholars and policy analysts who define political participation in democracy purely as voting, party membership or in terms of a narrow ‘arena’ definition of politics, the conclusion is clear: levels of political illiteracy are rising, while political participation is declining. Yet, the turn away from formal democratic politics and conventional forms of political participation is only one part of the picture. There is now an extensive literature suggesting a proliferation of new developments and alternative forms of political participation. But even as scholars have become more attuned to these new forms of political participation, the focus remains too narrow. Responding to Iris Marion Young's call to encourage alternative communicative forms in political participation, this article explores the capacity of participatory theatre to be an alternative site of political participation. By surveying three applications of participatory theatre, Jana Sanskriti, Journey of Asylum – Waiting and Betrayed – the article shows how theatre premised on spect-actors set against a communal backdrop can prefigure a more participatory political community.

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Chou, M., Gagnon, J. P., & Pruitt, L. (2015). Putting participation on stage: examining participatory theatre as an alternative site for political participation. Policy Studies, 36(6), 607–622. https://doi.org/10.1080/01442872.2015.1095281

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