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Spectacular Political Experiments

April 2009 - March 2010

We are witnessing the emergence of a multitude of political experiments. Globally and across the domains of government, social movement, media, arts, academia and business these experiments offer ways of channelling disenchantment with political parties and institutional practices.  Some even hold out the possibility of short-term political transformation and renewal, taking on spectacular qualities.

These experiments: 

  1. act to interrupt political business-as-usual and demonstrate, and pre-figure, new and better ways of performing politics;
  2. hold out the possibility of articulating representative and more participative forms of democratic practice;
  3. offer public participants the role of ‘active spectator’.

This one-year ESRC funded Post-Doctoral Fellowship builds on a recently completed PhD. The project aims to elaborate existing research; develop theoretical work in this area; and engage a wider set of audiences with this work. A set of journal publications will be produced along with a dedicated project website. And, through collaboration with practitioners via a cross-sectoral workshop, a ‘Thinkpiece’ suitable for distribution to stakeholders beyond the academy will be generated.

The project has two main emphases. The first is to construct a map of this fast-emerging and proliferating field of practice; the second, is to compare the dynamics, processes and practices enacted by different experiments and, by doing this, theorise how these experiments are being performed. By the end of the year the objectives are to have identified further relationships between different experiments, draw wider attention to the tussles taking place across this field and to have identified to publics and practitioners the forms of politics that are emerging as a result.

Principal Investigator: Dr Nick Mahony

Learn more about the research programme: Publics