The Age of Cultural Participation: Democratic Roles and Consequences

Zagreb, Croatia

Organised by ENCATC member, the Kultura Nova Foundation, the seminar is part of a series centred around the topic of participation focusing on inspecting successes and failures in contemporary approaches and strategies to participation, from different perspectives – practice, theory and policy.

The seminar "The Age of Cultural Participation: Democratic Roles and Consequences" is part of a series centred around the topic of participation that Kultura Nova Foundation is organizing in collaboration with the Cultural participation network and the Centre for Cultural Policy at the University of Leeds (a member of ENCATC) and the Danish research network Take Part from Aarhus University. 

The seminar in Zagreb will explore issues and concerns about the limitations, paradoxes and perspectives that cultural and artistic policies and practices are facing around the notion of participation in the context of ‘democratizing’ democracy. There has been a proliferation of labels given to the meaning of participation in recent years, creating various democratic forms from manipulation, tokenism and consultation to devolving power and control. 

This has had consequences in the arts and culture sector as well as the broader political sphere. Since neither practices nor policies of participation inherently or directly serve democratic purposes, in time of the democratic deficits and crisis of democracy and democratic institutions, the relation between participation and democracy is becoming an increasingly crucial issue. Observing participation through the lens of democracy points towards a gap between original intentions and subsequent concrete results of implementing participatory strategies within cultural practices and cultural policies. 

Furthermore, in the field of culture, the issue of cultural participation emphasizes the tension between elitist and popular approach to arts and culture, where the former understands arts as an exceptional area with its own logic, aesthetic values and principles, while the latter sees culture as ordinary and part of everyday life.This seminar aims to investigate participation, exploring failures, pitfalls and misuses of the concept as well as possibilities of overcoming tensions between arts autonomy and broad citizens participation in order to re-think democratic standards in arts and cultural participation, as well as in participatory governance in culture.

Zagreb’s seminar takes an interdisciplinary approach to discuss the issues of cultural participation and participatory governance in culture in relation to democracy. The programme includes speakers from three partner countries as well as from other parts of the world.The seminar will gather scholars, researchers, theoreticians, cultural operators, artists, practitioners and policy-makers.

Programme of the seminar is available here.

The Age of Cultural Participation: Democratic Roles and Consequences