The Challenge of Democracy from Below

Edited volumes do not tend to have staying power as a publication – collections of essays pass like most academic articles. Rarely does an edited volume remain an essential reading for decades. "Ethiopia: The Challenge of Democracy from Below" edited by Bahru Zewde and Siegfried Pausewang (2002) is one of those books. A number of the chapters have been widely cited, and remain key sources for research. This text is also unique in that is was co-published by an Ethiopian civil society organization within Ethiopia (Forum for Social Studies)

Providing a summary of an edited volume is challenging. Rather than try to give a few points, I'll overview the structure and highlight some essential readings. The book is divided into four sections: (1) Traditional systems of governance, (2) The peasant and the management of power and resources, (3) Alternative loci of power, and (4) Alternative voices. Of these, contributions by Bahru Zewde, Oyvind Aadland, Svein Ege, Siegfried Pausewang, Dessalegn Rahmato, Mehret Ayenew and Original Wolde Giorgis are excellent. This book is well worth finding.

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New Publication: Participatory Geoweb

​Corbett, J. and Cochrane, L. (2017) Engaging with the Participatory Geoweb: Exploring the Dynamics of VGI. In Volunteered Geographic Information and the Future of Geospatial Data edited by C. Campelo, M. Bertolotto and P. Corcoran. IGI Global.

Abstract: Maps were historically used as tools of the elite to maintain and expand power and control. The development of participatory mapmaking and the geoweb have opened new avenues for broader citizen engagement and therefore challenge traditional power dynamics. This chapter analyzes three examples and presents experiential learning around participatory processes and VGI contributions. Specifically we explore who is contributing their information, what are their motivations and incentives, in what ways do users interact with available technologies, and how is this contributing to change? We conclude by discussing the roles of motivations, the type of contribution, organizational capacity and leadership, and objectives. In comparing and contrasting these case studies we examine the individual and organizational dynamics of engagement, and how this can better inform the discourse about VGI.

Full version of chapter available here.

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New Publication: Participation & Empowerment

Corbett, J., Cochrane, L. and Gill, M. (2016) Powering Up: Revisiting Participatory GIS and Empowerment. The Cartographic Journal

  • Since 1996, participatory GIS (PGIS) has facilitated avenues through which public participation can occur. One of the ways practitioners articulate social change associated with PGIS interventions has been to qualify success using the term 'empowerment'. This paper explores the extent to which PGIS academic literature has utilised, defined, measured, and analysed empowerment. This research will demonstrate the degree to which PGIS has, from 1996 to 2014, appropriately and adequately taken into account the causative and direct relationship between a PGIS intervention and empowerment. This article identifies works broadly dealing with PGIS, then searches within that subset of literature for the term 'empowerment.' The findings are both quantitatively and qualitatively assessed to explore the trends within the PGIS literature over time and to contextualise the ways in which empowerment has been identified, understood, and articulated. We conclude with a discussion on the extent to which future PGIS research and practice has the ability to disrupt power inequalities.
The full article is gated. Abstract and further publication details available via the link above. If you would like a copy of the article, send me an email.
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PhD (x3) and Postdoc: Participatory urban governance

'Participatory urban governance between democracy and clientelism: Brokers and (in)formal politics' is a five-year research project financed by the European Research Council (2016-2021), led by Dr Martijn Koster. This research project investigates ethnographically how brokers position themselves in participatory urban governance. It examines their practices, discourses and networks, both in and outside officially sanctioned channels and institutions. The research conceptualizes brokers as 'assemblers', connective agents who actively bring together different government and citizen actors, institutions and resources and who combine formal and informal politics.

The project focuses on four cities, two in the Global North and two in the Global South: Rotterdam (NL), Manchester (UK), Cochabamba (Bolivia) and Recife (Brazil). It will develop a new framework for analysing brokerage in participatory urban governance, which will enhance our ability to understand the challenges of political representation more broadly, as well as the impact of brokerage on state-citizen engagement and on decision-making regarding the allocation of resources.

More on PhD options.

More on Postdoc option.

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Logan Cochrane

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