Assemblies: Modern Rituals

Pubic Assembly, Spain

The Evens Foundation launched a research and experimentation project dedicated to assemblies as forms of collective action.

People assemble because they are divided by matters of concern and want to come to some kind of provisional (dis)agreement. An assembly thus is a place where a plurality comes to think and act together.

The project explores how we negotiate, debate or deliberate, and sometimes come to a political compromise between people with widely divergent views; how our differences, some of them irreconcilable, enable discussion and engender solutions for collectively-faced challenges.

Unique in its ambition, the project brings cross disciplinary knowledge and practice around a common question: how can we form political communities? Social scientists, activists and cultural makers are invited to experiment with the instrumental forms of being together at the core of assembling.

Through the ages, public assemblies have embodied the ideas of popular sovereignty and democratic equality. In times of severe social polarisation and distrust in political institutions, they are increasingly considered by public authorities as tools to restore political legitimacy and generate public consent.

Be they alternatives to traditional policymaking or complements to our ageing representative institutions, these forms of participative policymaking contain a promising collaborative potential and are likely to be institutionalised. That is why it is important to critically examine their mechanisms, effects, benefits and limits.

This task has become a democratic challenge, encouraging us to rethink the forms of civic dialogue and contribute to the revival of emancipatory democratic practices.

The Evens Foundation launched a research and experimentation project dedicated to assemblies as forms of collective action.

People assemble because they are divided by matters of concern and want to come to some kind of provisional (dis)agreement. An assembly thus is a place where a plurality comes to think and act together.

The project explores how we negotiate, debate or deliberate, and sometimes come to a political compromise between people with widely divergent views; how our differences, some of them irreconcilable, enable discussion and engender solutions for collectively-faced challenges.

Unique in its ambition, the project brings cross disciplinary knowledge and practice around a common question: how can we form political communities? Social scientists, activists and cultural makers are invited to experiment with the instrumental forms of being together at the core of assembling.

Through the ages, public assemblies have embodied the ideas of popular sovereignty and democratic equality. In times of severe social polarisation and distrust in political institutions, they are increasingly considered by public authorities as tools to restore political legitimacy and generate public consent.

Be they alternatives to traditional policymaking or complements to our ageing representative institutions, these forms of participative policymaking contain a promising collaborative potential and are likely to be institutionalised. That is why it is important to critically examine their mechanisms, effects, benefits and limits.

This task has become a democratic challenge, encouraging us to rethink the forms of civic dialogue and contribute to the revival of emancipatory democratic practices.

Inquiry Focus

An increasingly topical and global phenomenon, the ancient art of assembly making has regained interest in democratic theory and generated a nascent "industry" of participative formats, among which popular and citizen assemblies. However, many important aspects of a successful assembly remain under-researched, especially on larger scales. Moreover, in depth interdisciplinary approaches seem to be rare.

Focusing on the conditions for inclusive and egalitarian deliberations, our inquiry aims to deepen the understanding of epistemic and civic benefits of assemblies, the role of emotions and collective affects, as well as the place of conflict and dissensus in the deliberative processes. A special attention is given to the forms of assemblies exploring the relation between the spaces, architectures, choreographies of the bodies and the knowledge and effects they produce.

While there is a growing ambition to standardise the deliberative procedures, certainly useful for improving the quality of the practice, we are committed to support experimentation, vital for advancing knowledge. We plan to design and organise assemblies where contributors from a variety of fields such as social science, activism, art, design, and architecture, together with other interested citizens, will jointly work to develop forms and protocols for experimentations.

A series of public events will accompany the process in order to open the discussion on the conceptual, methodological and political aspects of assembly making. Our goal is to transform the topic into a matter of public concern and call to invest into experimentation and innovation of these promising forms of collective policymaking.

News | 15 Mai 2020

We are very happy to announce that political scientist Dimitri Courant (University of Lausanne and University Paris 8) is the recipient of the Evens Research Fellowship. The Fellowship was established in the frameworks of Assemblies: Modern Rituals project with the aim to investigate the questions raised in our inquiry.

Dimitri Courant carries out a qualitative study of two contemporary cases of citizen assemblies in France: the National Great Debate and the Citizens’ Convention for the Climate in a comparative perspective with the Irish Citizens’ Assembly. Unprecedented in terms of scale, these nationwide experiments will bring important elements to the global research on deliberative democracy.

News | 13 April 2019

Workshop Spaces for Assemblies at Akademie der Künste, Berlin
Organised in cooperation with architects collective raumlaborberlin, the workshop invited participants to explore and bring into being spaces for assemblies. Through a series of experiential exercises, we tested different modes of assemblies and decision-making processes. Read more