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SP38 - New rhythms from below: Disentangling civic agency for development

Convened by Tiina Kontinen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland), Kees Biekart (Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Netherlands) and Marianne Millstein (Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway)

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The panel explores how new theorizations and empirical investigations of civic agency could impact our understanding of new rhythms of development. Amid uncertainties and unprecedented crises, people organize and mobilize not only for immediate survival but also for promoting change to address inequalities; often revealed in situations where taken-for-granted routines are disrupted. The relationships between states and their citizens, and the commitments and solidarities across the global North and South are contested and renegotiated when the old positions get challenged. Development discourse has resorted to notions such as democratization, civil society, and civic space to capture the state-society dynamics. Yet, only a minority of the world population lives in what are labelled liberal democracies or enjoy open civic spaces. Additionally, Eurocentrism of these concepts and their usage in both development policies and research has been criticized for long, and more contextualized conceptualizations called for. A parallel problem is that authoritarian forces are gaining momentum in civil society, and the phenomenon of democratic decline has become less a North-South issue, but rather a battle inside civil societies about the question which civic actors have legitimate (civic) power and agency to pursue a certain change in society. This hybrid panel invites new theorizations and empirical investigations of forms and logics of people’s organizing and mobilizing in response to both everyday challenges and the disruptive crises of our time. Contributions from the global South that identify and conceptualize new rhythms of development from below are encouraged. The panel is organized by EADI Working Group on Citizenship and Civil Society in Development and motivated by the urge to further reflect the conclusions of the forthcoming book “Civil society responses to changing civic spaces” edited by the convenors and to be published with the EADI Palgrave Global Development series in early 2023.

This panel is organised by the EADI Working Group on Citizenship and Civil Society in Development