What Makes an Assembly?

A cross-disciplinary and critical inquiry into the forms and practices of assembly-making across histories and geographies, the book explores the potential of assemblies to shape political subjects.

Over the past decades, multiple social movements have reappropriated the form of assembly, as a prominent component of political struggle, to defend radical visions of democracy. At the same time, governments across the globe have sought to reframe public deliberation as a response to the failures of representative democracy.

How can we analyse this double movement, and could assemblies of equals once again offer possibilities to reimagine and renew the ways politics is practiced? To address these questions, we need to move beyond simply asking what assemblies can do, and instead examine how they are made. This means departing from the shores of a speculative, deliberative ideal and restoring attention to both their diversity of forms, and their capacity to perform, deform, and transform.

Bringing together accounts written by those who practice assemblies, and contributions from artists, activists, historians, philosophers, and social scientists, as well as three architectural experiments that attempt to imagine models for a future assembly, the book proposes a critical inquiry into the potential of assemblies to reimagine the way democracy is practiced.

From assemblies in indigenous territories of Brazil to those of the Yellow Vests in France, from medieval communes to street parliaments in Africa, from citizens’ assemblies set up by public authorities to practices forged from emancipatory traditions, What Makes An Assembly? examines the tensions that exist in all assemblies between the need for form and the danger of formalization; between the scripts, rituals, and architectural settings from which they derive, and their capacity to erupt and emerge anew.

Contributions by Andreas Angelidakis, Ayreen Anastas, Frédérique Aït-Touati, Hans Asenbaum, Richard Banégas, Sandra Benites, Jean Godefroy Bidima, Patrick Boucheron, Florence Brisset-Foucault, Manuel Callahan, François Cooren, Armando Cutolo, Piersandra di Matteo, Pascale Dufour, Ben Eersels, Tallulah Frappier, Delphine Gardey, Rene Gabri, Alana Gerecke, Andrés Jaque/Office for Political Innovation, Laurent Jeanpierre, Pablo Lafuente, Laura Levin, Stacey Liou, Catherine Malabou, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Florian Malzacher, Markus Miessen, raumlabor, Ana Terra Yawalapiti, Philippe Urfalino, Aleksandra Wasilkowska, and Yellow Vests (collective).

Edited by Anne Davidian and Laurent Jeanpierre
Co-published by the Evens Foundation and Sternberg Press (September 2022)
Order the book here

A cross-disciplinary and critical inquiry into the forms and practices of assembly-making across histories and geographies, the book explores the potential of assemblies to shape political subjects.

Over the past decades, multiple social movements have reappropriated the form of assembly, as a prominent component of political struggle, to defend radical visions of democracy. At the same time, governments across the globe have sought to reframe public deliberation as a response to the failures of representative democracy.

How can we analyse this double movement, and could assemblies of equals once again offer possibilities to reimagine and renew the ways politics is practiced? To address these questions, we need to move beyond simply asking what assemblies can do, and instead examine how they are made. This means departing from the shores of a speculative, deliberative ideal and restoring attention to both their diversity of forms, and their capacity to perform, deform, and transform.

Bringing together accounts written by those who practice assemblies, and contributions from artists, activists, historians, philosophers, and social scientists, as well as three architectural experiments that attempt to imagine models for a future assembly, the book proposes a critical inquiry into the potential of assemblies to reimagine the way democracy is practiced.

From assemblies in indigenous territories of Brazil to those of the Yellow Vests in France, from medieval communes to street parliaments in Africa, from citizens’ assemblies set up by public authorities to practices forged from emancipatory traditions, What Makes An Assembly? examines the tensions that exist in all assemblies between the need for form and the danger of formalization; between the scripts, rituals, and architectural settings from which they derive, and their capacity to erupt and emerge anew.

Contributions by Andreas Angelidakis, Ayreen Anastas, Frédérique Aït-Touati, Hans Asenbaum, Richard Banégas, Sandra Benites, Jean Godefroy Bidima, Patrick Boucheron, Florence Brisset-Foucault, Manuel Callahan, François Cooren, Armando Cutolo, Piersandra di Matteo, Pascale Dufour, Ben Eersels, Tallulah Frappier, Delphine Gardey, Rene Gabri, Alana Gerecke, Andrés Jaque/Office for Political Innovation, Laurent Jeanpierre, Pablo Lafuente, Laura Levin, Stacey Liou, Catherine Malabou, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Florian Malzacher, Markus Miessen, raumlabor, Ana Terra Yawalapiti, Philippe Urfalino, Aleksandra Wasilkowska, and Yellow Vests (collective).

Edited by Anne Davidian and Laurent Jeanpierre
Co-published by the Evens Foundation and Sternberg Press (September 2022)
Order the book here

News I 23 June 2022

Talk What Makes an Assembly? at Centre Pompidou, Paris
A conversation with the contributors of our forthcoming publication: architect Markus Bader (co-founder of raumlabor), historian Patrick Boucheron, and political scientist Delphine Gardey. Moderated by the book’s editors, Anne Davidian and Laurent Jeanpierre, the talk was hosted in the new assembly space designed by raumlabor, commissioned and produced by Centre Pompidou and Evens Foundation.